Effect of dietary omega-3 fatty acids on retinal function of very-low-birth-weight neonates

Pediatr Res. 1990 Nov;28(5):485-92. doi: 10.1203/00006450-199011000-00014.


Retinal function was assessed by electroretinogram in 32 neonates randomly assigned to formulas of different omega-3 fatty acid content and in 10 infants fed human milk. All neonates had a birth weight of 1000-1500 g and were fed study diets from d 10 to 45 or discharge. Group A received formula containing predominantly 18:2 omega-6. Group B received a balanced mix of 18:2 omega-6 and 18:3 omega-3. Group C was given a formula containing both essential fatty acids and supplemented with marine oil to provide 22:6 omega-3 content similar to that of human milk. The fatty acid composition of plasma and red blood cell (RBC) lipids were similar for all groups on entry but marked diet-induced differences were found after feeding the study diets. Group C was comparable to the human milk-fed group, but group A had lower 22:6 omega-3 and omega-3 long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids (LCPUFA) in plasma and RBC membranes. Cone function was not affected by dietary essential fatty acids. Rod electroretinogram thresholds were significantly higher for group A relative to the human milk-fed group and group C and significantly correlated with RBC omega-3 LCPUFA (r = -0.63, p less than 0.0001); 44% of the variance could be explained by RBC and plasma omega-3 LCPUFA content.(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

  • Double-Blind Method
  • Electroretinography
  • Fatty Acids, Omega-3 / administration & dosage*
  • Humans
  • Infant Nutritional Physiological Phenomena
  • Infant, Low Birth Weight
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Lipids / blood
  • Milk, Human
  • Nutritional Requirements
  • Retina / growth & development
  • Retina / physiology*


  • Fatty Acids, Omega-3
  • Lipids