Studies in 50 premature babies aged 6 to 8 weeks showed that vitamin E plays a significant role in the pathogenesis of the `anaemia of prematurity'. Administration of 10 mg/day vitamin E orally elicited a clear-cut clinical and haematological response.
There was a relation between the type of nutrition and the onset of anaemia, anaemia regularly developing within 2 weeks of changing from human milk to a powdered cow's milk formula. Susceptibility to haemolysis was quantitated by measuring the free haemoglobin after exposure of the erythrocytes to hydrogen peroxide. This peroxide haemolysis was increased when the vitamin E level in the blood was below 0·6 mg/100 ml. It became normal a few days after vitamin E administration and the consequent rise in blood concentration.
It is concluded that a supplement of vitamin E is advisable from the 10th day onwards in premature infants who are artificially fed.
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