Sex-specific effects of nutritional supplements in infants born early or small: Protocol for an individual participant data meta-analysis (ESSENCE IPD-MA)


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Introduction Preterm and small for gestational age (SGA) infants are at increased risk of poor growth, disability and delayed development. While growing up they are also at increased risk of obesity, diabetes and later heart disease. The risk of such adverse outcomes may be altered by how preterm and SGA infants are fed after birth. Faltering postnatal growth is common due to failure to achieve recommended high energy and protein intakes, and thus preterm and SGA infants are often provided with supplemental nutrition soon after birth. Enhanced nutrition has been associated with improved early growth and better cognitive development. However, limited evidence suggests that faster growth may increase the risk for later adiposity, metabolic and cardiovascular disease, and that such risks may differ between girls and boys. Methods and analysis We will search Ovid MEDLINE, Embase, Cochrane CENTRAL, Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews,, ClinicalTrials. gov and for randomised trials that studied the effects of macronutrient supplements for preterm and SGA infants on (i) developmental and metabolic and (ii) growth outcomes after hospital discharge. The outcomes will be (i) cognitive impairment and metabolic risk (co-primary) and (ii) body mass index. Individual participant data (IPD) from all available trials will be included using an intention-to-treat approach. A one-stage procedure for IPD meta-analysis (MA) will be used, accounting for clustering of participants within studies. Exploratory subgroup analyses will further investigate sources of heterogeneity, including sex and size of infants, different timing, duration and type of supplements. Ethics and dissemination This IPD-MA is approved by the University of Auckland Human Participants Ethics Committee (reference number: 019874). Individual studies have approval from relevant local ethics committees. Results will be disseminated in a peer-reviewed journal and presented at international conferences.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere033438
JournalBMJ Open
Issue number1
StatePublished - 8 Jan 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • development
  • individual participant data meta-analysis
  • metabolic
  • preterm
  • small-for-gestational-age


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