Seventeen low weight infants with symmetrical growth retardation (no wasting) were entered in a randomised, double-blind comparison of high energy, 3.6 MJ/L (87 kcal/100 ml) v standard energy 2.7 MJ/L (65 kcal/100 ml) feeds given ad libitum during their first three months. Intakes were measured throughout, and energy absorption was determined at home from balance studies at 6 weeks and 3 months of age. Infants on high energy feeds absorbed the same proportion of energy intake but consumed less feed throughout the study. Regulation of feed intake was such that by 2 months of age energy intakes were similar in both groups, though before this time infants on high energy feeds had a higher net energy intake and grew slightly faster. Appetite regulation seems to be present at birth or soon after but is not fully developed for several weeks, and until this time increased energy intake can be imposed by adjusting the energy density of the feed.
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