Research: FEWTRELL and co-workers,

Listed in Issue 104


FEWTRELL and co-workers, MRC Childhood Nutrition Research Centre, Institute of Child Health, 30 Guilford Street, London WC1N 1EH, UK,, have conducted a randomized double-blind trial of long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acid supplementation in pre-term infants.


The objective of the study was to test the safety and efficacy of the long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids gamma-linoleic acid and docosahexaenoic acid, gained from borage oil and fish oil, respectively, in pre-term infants.


238 pre-term (less than 35 weeks) or low birth weight (less than 2 kg) infants were randomly assigned to either study group or control group. Babies in the study group were supplemented with fatty acids for the first 9 months of their lives. The main outcome measures of the study were Bayley Mental and Psychomotor Indexes at 18 months after birth. The safety was assessed with anthropometry at 9 and 18 months, feed tolerance, infection, and clinical complications.


There were no significant differences in neural development between the groups overall. In subgroup analyses, supplemented boys had significantly higher mental development indices than unsupplemented ones (p = 0.04). Fatty acid-supplemented infants showed greater weight gain (p = 0.0) and length gain (p = 0.05) between birth and 9 months. Again the effect was greater in boys.


This trial showed efficacy of long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acid supplementation with no adverse effects for the growth of pre-term infants and neuronal development of pre-term boys. The results are likely to have far-reaching implications for supplementation strategy in pre-term infants.


Fewtrell MS, Abbott RA, Kennedy K, Singhal A, Morley R, Caine E, Jamieson C, Cockburn F, Lucas A. Randomized, double-blind trial of long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acid supplementation with fish oil and borage oil in preterm infants. The Journal of Pediatrics 144 (4): 471-479, Apr 2004.

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