Boost DHA intake for premature babies, say researchers

By Shane Starling

- Last updated on GMT

Damage that can occur in the first four weeks of a premature baby’s life can be significantly reduced if DHA levels are increased, researchers have found.

The French and US researchers found that enterally (through a tube into the intestine) fed babies were typically 20mg/kg/day deficient in the long-chain fatty acid – or 44 percent of levels that should have accumulated.

From this figure they suggested that preterm formula and human milk should contain 1.5 percent of its fatty acids as DHA, “to prevent the appearance of a DHA deficit and to compensate for the early DHA deficit.”

Potential neurodevelopment consequences of DHA deficits include sub-normal head circumference as well as a poorer IQ, perceptual motor skills, academic achievement, and adaptative behavior.

The researchers, Alexandre Lapillonne from Descartes University in Paris, and Craig Jensen of Baylor College of Medicine in Texas, said pre-formed DHA should be given to mothers in the form of supplements to boost levels in parentally delivered milk and added to formulas.

Jensen had a conflict of interest in that he received a grant from global DHA leader, Martek Biosciences.

But the researchers noted further research was required and said the available data did not allow them recommend a specific amount of DHA in lipid emulsions.

They were also unable to determine the level of arachidonic acid (ALA) which should be given both enterally and parentally.


Prostaglandins Leukotrienes Essential Fatty Acids


‘Reevaluation of the DHA requirement for the premature infant’

A. Lapillonne, C.L. Jensen

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