VANCOUVER, British Columbia — Omega-3 fatty acid deficiency is common among very
premature infants, and conditions such as gastrointestinal immaturity and other
acute health problems often exacerbate malnutrition risks in these patients.
But speakers at the 2010 Pediatric Academic Societies Annual Meeting today,
said that mothers who breast-feed may be able to improve their infant’s
health by taking docosahexaenoic acid supplements.
Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) is an omega-3 fatty acid
found in cold-water fatty fish and fish oil supplements. Although it is
growth and development,
breast-feeding mothers may not consume enough of the
nutrient, Isabelle Marc, MD, PhD, assistant professor of pediatrics at
Laval University in Quebec, Canada explained.
Marc and colleagues from several other sites in Canada assigned mothers
of 12 infants born at 28 weeks gestation who planned on breast-feeding to
high-dose DHA supplements (1.2 g per day) through 39 days post-conception. They
measured daily DHA intake, DHA levels in breast milk and in mother and baby
plasma lipids from birth to 49-day follow-up. The researchers then compared
levels in the supplement group to DHA levels among a control group of 24 very
premature infants whose mothers did not receive supplements.
They found that mothers who received the supplements had DHA levels 12
times higher than those who did not. At day 49, data indicated that infants in
the intervention group received 55.2 mg per kg DHA per day vs. 7.2 mg per kg
per day among control group infants.
Although there was no difference in enteral feeding intake among either
group of infants, those in the intervention group received about seven times
more DHA than the control group, according to Marc.
“Our study has shown that supplementing mothers is a feasible and
effective way of providing DHA to low birth weight premature infants," Marc
said. "Our results underline the urgent need for recommendations addressing
dietary DHA intake during lactation of mothers of very preterm infants to reach
optimal DHA level in milk to be delivered to the baby for optimal growth and
neurodevelopment, since the human milk DHA content in mothers not consuming
fish during this period is most probably insufficient." – by Nicole
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