Omega Fatty Acids Help Preterm Babies With Vision

According to a cutting-edge study, preterm infants who receive an omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acid supplement before age two and a half have dramatically improved visual performance.

The study, conducted between 2016 and 2019, featured 178 severely preterm infants who were delivered before the 28th week of pregnancy. The supplement improved how well the brain processed visual cues and lowered the risk of sight-threatening eye illness.

By two and a half years old, preterm infants who received an omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acid supplements had a superior visual function. These positive results could affect upcoming recommendations for newborn care.

How did they conduct the study?

The research, undertaken by the University of Gothenburg in Sweden and published in The Lancet Regional Health Europe, examined 178 severely preterm infants cared for in the neonatal units of the university hospitals in Gothenburg, Lund, and Stockholm between 2016 and 2019.

Babies born before the 28th week of pregnancy are considered extremely preterm. Preventive oral dietary supplements containing the omega-3 fatty acids DHA and AA were provided to around half of the newborns. The supplements currently provided to severely preterm newborns shortly after birth do not include AA or DHA.

The chance of getting the sight-threatening eye condition ROP (retinopathy of prematurity), which may be prevented by taking the combo supplement, was previously discovered to be reduced by half. The current study examines children's visual development from the projected date of birth or at two and a half years of corrected age.

According to Pia Lundgren, the first author, "The study shows that children who received the combination supplement had improved visual function, regardless of whether they had previously had ROP."

She continued by saying that the enhanced visual development was not just a result of the retina's positive impact. The supplement has enhanced the ability of the brain to process visual perceptions.

In many regions of the world, neonatal care is especially relevant regarding the problem of nutrition and supplements for severely premature infants.

In the continued studies – on the same group of children – we will also look more closely at cognitive and neurological development, which will be particularly interesting.

- Lundgren

Sweden presently lacks detailed recommendations for giving fatty acid supplements to extremely preterm infants, but these recommendations are currently being changed partly because of recent findings.

Significantly, according to the research team, they can now show how the combo supplement benefits a child's later visual development.


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