Long-term feeding of formulas high in linolenic acid and marine oil to very low birth weight infants: phospholipid fatty acids

Pediatr Res. 1991 Nov;30(5):404-12. doi: 10.1203/00006450-199111000-00003.


Red blood cell (RBC) phospholipids of infants fed human milk compared with formula have more arachidonic acid (AA) and docosahexanoic acid (DHA). The addition of low levels of marine oil to infant formula with 0.6 to 2.0% alpha-linolenic acid (LLA, 18:3n-3) prevented declines in DHA in formula-fed infants; however, the feeding trials were short (4 to 6 wk), LLA concentrations were low compared with current formulas (3.0 to 5.0% LLA), and the formulas were unstable. Trials with stable formulas were necessary to determine if dietary DHA could maintain phospholipid DHA after discharge from the hospital and, in fact, if it was necessary with higher intakes of LLA. The results of acute (4 wk) and extended (to 79 wk postconception) feeding of such formulas on RBC and plasma phospholipid AA and DHA are reported here. Control formulas were identical to commercially available formulas. Experimental formulas differed only in the addition of small amounts of marine oil. DHA in RBC and plasma phosphatidylethanolamine (PE) declined during four weeks of feeding but not if marine oil provided DHA (0.2% or 0.4%) and plasma phospholipid AA (g/100 g) decreased with time and marine oil feeding. Extended feeding with marine oil accounted for half the DHA in RBC and plasma phosphatidylethanolamine at equilibrium; however, RBC (g/100 g) and plasma AA (g/100 g; mg/L plasma) decreased progressively until late infancy and were depressed further by marine oil.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 250 WORDS)

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Arachidonic Acid / blood
  • Dietary Fats, Unsaturated / administration & dosage*
  • Docosahexaenoic Acids / administration & dosage
  • Docosahexaenoic Acids / blood
  • Eicosapentaenoic Acid / blood
  • Erythrocytes / metabolism
  • Fish Oils / administration & dosage*
  • Humans
  • Infant Food*
  • Infant Nutritional Physiological Phenomena
  • Infant, Low Birth Weight
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Infant, Premature
  • Linolenic Acids / administration & dosage
  • Nutritional Status
  • Phospholipids / blood*
  • alpha-Linolenic Acid


  • Dietary Fats, Unsaturated
  • Fish Oils
  • Linolenic Acids
  • Phospholipids
  • alpha-Linolenic Acid
  • Docosahexaenoic Acids
  • Arachidonic Acid
  • Eicosapentaenoic Acid