Food and Behaviour Research

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9 Jun 2014 - 2 Minute Medicine - Possible benefit in omega-3 supplementation for extremely preterm infants

Joshi N, Carr LH


And for the recent update to the recommendations for feeding premature infants - which specifies the need for greater quantities of omega-3 LC-PUFA than formula designed for term infants - see also:

1. This systematic review did not find an association between omega-3 fatty acid supplementation and decreased incidence of bronchopulmonary dysplasia (BPD) among neonates.

2. In a subset of extremely premature infants, effects of omega-3 fatty acid supplementation were still non-significant, but trended towards a lower risk of BPD and necrotizing enterocolitis.

Evidence Rating Level: 2 (Good)

Study Rundown: 

Bronchopulmonary dysplasia (BPD) is a common and significant complication of premature birth, resulting in long-term respiratory difficulties and the need for supplemental oxygen.

Long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids (LCPUFAs), including omega-3 fatty acids, have been previously implicated in inflammatory modulation. Dysregulation in the inflammatory cascade is postulated as a contributor to BPD, and research has indicated that premature infants are LCPUFA-deficient. As such, this systematic review gathered multiple studies analyzing the effects of omega-3 fatty acid supplementation on neonates.

Researchers found that omega-3 fatty acid supplementation was not associated with decreased BPD in neonates overall, but may show a benefit for BPD and nectrotizing enterocolitis in extremely premature infants.

This systematic review was greatly limited by homogeneity amongst included studies, including a lack of randomized control trials directly comparing supplementation to placebo in extremely premature infants. The review however, indicated no adverse effects to supplementation, and sets up a platform for future trials of LCPUFA supplementation in neonates.