The importance of omega-3 long chain polyunsaturated fatty acids in the perinatal period has been the focus of research for several decades. Infants born preterm miss out on the last trimester in utero transfer of omega-3 fatty acids and consequently have lower blood levels than infants born at term. Preterm infant formula was supplemented with the omega-3 docosahexaenoic acid and the omega-6 arachidonic acid from 2000 (to the level found in the breast milk of women consuming a western diet) based on trials reporting improvements in visual acuity. Docosahexaenoic acid supplementation beyond this level has not shown improvements in clinical or developmental outcomes, however the effect on childhood development in the most preterm infants remains to be resolved. Maternal omega-3 supplementation during pregnancy has the potential to reduce the incidence of preterm birth but may also, in some pregnancies, prolong gestation beyond term and increase fetal size.
Keywords: Long chain polyunsaturated fatty acids; Neonatal nutrition; Perinatal nutrition; Preterm infant.
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