Reference data on trace elements, oxidative status and antioxidants in very low birth weight infants (VLBW) are limited and need to be updated for use in clinical settings. Serum and urine of 30 VLBW infants (mean weight, 1167 g) at mean age of 23.8 (t0) and 37.8 (t1) days were analyzed. Cadmium (Cd), copper (Cu), iron (Fe), mercury (Hg), manganese (Mn), selenium (Se) and zinc (Zn), nitrate/nitrite (NOx), catalase (CAT), CuZnFeMn-superoxide dismutases (CuZnFeMn-SODs), total antioxidant capacity (SAC: sum of thiols, proteins, bilirubin, uric acid, β-beta-carotene, ascorbic acid, vitamin E) and total oxidative status (SOS: sum of lipo- and hydroperoxides) were determined. A higher urinary excretion of Cu and Zn was observed at t0 than at t1; while an increase in urine Cd was found at t1 respect to t0. A deficiency in serum levels of Cu and Zn was also found. A lower CAT activity, a higher total oxidants level (SOS) and a reduction of total antioxidant barriers (SAC) were observed in some infants. No Fe and Mn deficiency or Hg overload was found; also CuZnFeMn-SODs and NOx levels did not change.
The findings showed that losses of trace elements and incomplete mineral body stores were more pronounced in the earlier life stage (at 23.8th day) than later on; moreover, antioxidant defenses were poor and lipo- and hydroperoxides were higher still at 5 weeks of infants’ life.