, Volume 27, Issue 11, pp 886–895 | Cite as

Essentiality of dietary ω3 fatty acids for premature infants: Plasma and red blood cell fatty acid composition

  • Dennis R. Hoffman
  • Ricardo Uauy


Pre-term infants, that are not breast-fed, are deprived of vital intrauterine fat accretion during late pregnancy and must rely on formula to obtain fatty acids essential for normal development, particularly of the visual system. Preterm infants (30 wk postconception) receiving human milk were compared to infants given one of the following formulae: Formula A was a commercial preterm formula with predominantly 18∶2ω6 (24.2%) and low (0.5%) 18∶3ω3; Formula B was based on soy oil and contained similar 18∶2ω6 levels (20%) and high 18∶3ω3 (2.7%); Formula C was also a soy oil-based formula (20% 18∶2, 1.4% 18∶3) but was supplemented with marine oil to provide ω3 long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids (LCP) at a level (docosahexaenoic acid, DHA, 0.35%) equivalent to human milk. At entry (10 days of age), the fatty acid composition of plasma and red blood cell (RBC) membrane lipids of the formula groups were identical. By 36 wk postconception, the DHA content in lipids of group A was significantly reduced compared to that in the human milk and marine oil formula groups. Omega-3 LCP results were further amplified by 57 wk with compensatory increases in 22∶5ω6 in both plasma and RBC lipids. Provision of 2.7% α-linolenic acid in formula group B was sufficient to maintain 22∶6ω3 levels equivalent to those in human milk-fed infants at 36 wk but not at 57 wk. Effects on the production of thiobarbituric acid reactive substances and fragility of RBC attributable to the marine oil supplementation were negligible. The results support the essentiality of ω3 fatty acids for preterm infants to obtain fatty acid profiles comparable to infants receiving human milk. Formula for preterm infants should be supplemented with ω3 fatty acids including LCP.



analysis of variance


docosahexaenoic acid (22∶6ω3)


essential fatty acid(s)


eicosapentaenoic acid (20∶5ω3)


fatty acid(s)


human milk


longchain polyunsaturated fatty acid(s)


medium-chain triglycerides


red blood cell(s)


thiobarbituric acid reactive substances


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Copyright information

© American Oil Chemists’ Society 1992

Authors and Affiliations

  • Dennis R. Hoffman
    • 1
    • 2
  • Ricardo Uauy
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of PediatricsThe University of Texas Southwestern Medical CenterDallas
  2. 2.The Human Nutrition CenterDallas

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