Double-Blind, Randomized Trial of Long-Chain Polyunsaturated Fatty Acid Supplementation in Formula-fed to Preterm Infants

Fewtrell, M.S. et al. Pediatrics 110:73-82, 2002


     Breastmilk is known to contain high levels of longchain polyunsaturated acids (DHA and ARA). Importantly, these essential fatty acids contribute to brain, neurological and retinal development. These essential fatty acids are not present in infant formulas sold in North America and may accounts for the differences in IQ and learning capacities between infant formula-fed and breastfed infants. Thus much research is going into trials of various formats of longchain fatty acids to determine if this will improve neurological outcomes for formula-fed infants. To

date the outcomes have been inconclusive.


    This current study, based in the UK, tested the hypothesis that the addition of long-chain fatty acids to preterm infant formulas during the first weeks of life, would give long-term neurological developmental advantages in a double-blind, randomized controlled trial of preterm infant formula with or without long-chain fatty acids DHA and ARA.


    The study tested neurological and developmental outcomes of 195 formula-fed preterm infants and 88 breast-milk fed infants.


    Results found no significant differences in the developmental scores of the randomized formula-fed groups. They did find infants in the fatty acid supplemented group to be shorter than the control group. Breastfed infants were found to have significantly higher developmental scores at nine and 18 months of age, than both of the formula-fed groups. Breastfed infants were also significantly longer and heavier than the supplemented group, but not the unsupplemented formula group.


    In conclusion, the researchers determined that the addition of long-chain fatty acids did not confer neurological benefits up to the age of 18 months, and raised concerns about growth implications for infants given these formulas.




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