The effect of diet on pancreatic exocrine function, measured by faecal chymotrypsin activity (FCA), was studied longitudinally in three groups of small for gestational age (SGA) infants in the first six months of life. The three groups comprised breastfed infants (group B), those randomly allocated to receive a standard infant formula (group S), or the same formula supplemented with nucleotides (group N). The three groups did not differ in their birthweight or gestational age. Nucleotide supplementation of infant formula improves catchup growth in SGA infants but whether this is due to effects on the gastrointestinal mucosa or the exocrine pancreas is not known.
There were no differences in FCA at study entry but by one month group B had significantly lower values than the other groups, and this was maintained at 2, 4, and 6 months. Groups N and S did not differ significantly at any time point.
Nucleotide supplementation of infant formula does not influence pancreatic exocrine function and its effect on growth is unlikely, therefore, to be mediated through the pancreas. This study shows that breast feeding is associated with lower FCA which may be related to the lower protein content of human milk. Reliable interpretation of FCA in young infants requires information about their diet.
- small for gestational age
- breast feeding
- formula feed
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