In three randomized, double-blind clinical trials, preterm infants were fed typical preterm or term formulas and experimental formulas supplemented with n-3 and n-6 long-chain fatty acids. The effect of these feedings on the concentration of plasma phosphatidylcholine arachidonic acid (AA), an indicator of AA status, was contrasted with equivalent data from infants born at term.

Preterm infants appear to have poorer AA status than breast-fed term infants at the corrected ages of 0 and 2 mo. The addition of marine oil eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) (0.3%) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) (0.2%) to formula further decreased AA status (Study 1).

The same amount of marine oil DHA (0.2%) but with less EPA (0.06%) fed for a shorter interval did not decrease plasma phosphatidylcholine AA concentration compared with controls (Study 2).

Preterm infants fed both AA (0.43%) and DHA (0.1%) had better AA status than controls.

These observations are discussed in relation to evidence from these same studies that AA status and the n-6/n-3 rates are related to growth of preterm infants.

PMID: 8642439

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