Food and Behaviour Research

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Lipid needs of preterm infants: updated recommendations.

Lapillonne A, Groh-Wargo S, Gonzalez CH, Uauy R. (2013) J Pediatr.  162(3 Suppl) S37-47.  

Web URL: View this and related abstracts via PubMed here.


Long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids (LCPUFAs) are of nutritional interest because they are crucial for normal development of the central nervous system and have potential long-lasting effects that extend beyond the period of dietary insufficiency.

Here we review the recent literature and current recommendations regarding LCPUFAs as they pertain to preterm infant nutrition. In particular, findings that relate to fetal accretion, LCPUFA absorption and metabolism, effects on development, and current practices and recommendations have been used to update recommendations for health care providers.

The amounts of long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids (LCPUFAs) used in early studies were chosen to produce the same concentrations as in term breast milk. This might not be a wise approach for preterm infants, however, particularly for very and extremely preterminfants, whose requirements for LCPUFAs and other nutrients exceed what is normally provided in the small volumes that they are able to tolerate.

Recent studies have reported outcome data in preterm infants fed milk with a docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) content 2-3 times higher than the current concentration in infant formulas. Overall, these studies show that providing larger amounts of DHA supplements, especially to the smallest infants, is associated with better neurologic outcomes in early life.

We emphasize that current nutritional management might not provide sufficient amounts of preformed DHA during the parenteral and enteral nutrition periods and in very preterm/very low birth weight infants until their due date, and that greater amounts than used routinely likely will be needed to compensate for intestinal malabsorption, DHA oxidation, and early deficit.

Research should continue to address the gaps in knowledge and further refine adequate intake for each group of preterm infants.