Vitamin E supplementation for the prevention of morbidity and mortality in preterm infants
Every year, 15 million infants are born preterm (before 37 weeks), and this number is rising. Over one million children die every year due to complications of preterm birth, and millions more face a lifetime of disability as their organs are not mature at birth. Survival rates for these infants are considerably worse in low-income settings.
Vitamin E is an important antioxidant for the health and well-being of preterm neonates. It is present at higher than usual levels in the breast milk of mothers who have given birth prematurely, and may be able to prevent or limit some of the health problems associated with preterm birth, such as anaemia due to haemorrhaging.
Studies have shown that giving vitamin E supplements to preterm infants can provide some benefits, but may also increase the risk of life-threatening infections like sepsis. Furthermore, while extra vitamin E may reduce complications such as disease of the retina, the risk of bleeding in the brain is increased when extra vitamin E is given intravenously. Therefore, current evidence does not support high-dose vitamin E supplementation, particularly intravenously, to preterm and very low-birth-weight neonates. The recommended dietary allowance for vitamin E should be met by the usual daily intake of breast milk.
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