A three-year clinical trial of enteral supplementation with fatty acids in premature infants has demonstrated a lowering of the risk of severe retinopathy of prematurity (ROP) by 50%.
Three university hospitals in Sweden participated in the trial, which included 206 infants born at less than 27 weeks’ gestational age (GA). A total of 101 infants were given an enteral oil containing arachidonic acid (AA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) from three days after birth until 40 weeks postmenstrual age, with the control group of 105 receiving no supplementation. In the control group, 33.3% of infants developed stage 3 and/or type 1 ROP, compared to 15.8% of the AA/DHA-supplemented group.
Researchers noted that, since infants receive DHA, AA and ω-6 long chain polyunsaturated fatty acid from the mother during the third trimester, those born at less than 27 weeks’ GA miss out on receiving these nutrients in utero; nor are there sufficient quantities of fatty acids in breast milk to compensate.