Adelaide researchers say they have made a world breakthrough in treating premature babies at risk of developmental disorders. A six-year study led by Dr Maria Makrides from the Women's and Children's Health Research Institute and Professor Bob Gibson from the University of Adelaide has demonstrated that high doses of fatty acids administered to pre-term infants via their mother's breast milk or infant formula can help their mental development.
The findings were published today in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).
Researchers found that a major lipid in the brain – the omega-3 fatty acid known as Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) – is not developed sufficiently in babies born before 33 weeks' gestation, leading to possible impaired mental development.
To counter this, increased doses of DHA (1000mg per day) were administered to lactating mothers with pre-term infants, in the form of tuna oil capsules. If required, infants were given supplementary formula with matching DHA levels.
Of 657 premature babies tested in a trial involving five Australian hospitals, about 50% fewer infants on high-DHA diets had significantly delayed mental development compared with low DHA diets.
Premature girls in particular who were exposed to DHA-rich diets showed much better mental development than girls fed the low DHA diet.
Professor Gibson said his team was at a loss to explain why premature male babies – who are more susceptible to cognitive problems – did not respond to the same extent, with no obvious differences in mental development between the control group and those administered high doses of DHA.
"Boys may have a faster metabolic rate than girls and need higher doses of DHA to make a difference," he said. "We need to do a lot more work in this area to find out why."
Infants weighing less than 1250gm (about a third of a full-term baby's weight) who were fed a high-DHA diet also scored better on the mental development scale, with a 40% reduction in the incidence of mild mental delay.
- PHYSICAL SCIENCES
- EARTH SCIENCES
- LIFE SCIENCES
- SOCIAL SCIENCES
Subscribe to the newsletter
Stay in touch with the scientific world!
Know Science And Want To Write?
- Debunking: A President Of The US Could Order A Nuclear Attack At A Moments Notice On A Whim
- A Dimuon Particle At 30 GeV In ALEPH ??
- Lunar Spelunking, & Moon Science Surprises - More Interesting For Human Exploration Than Boulder Plucked From Asteroid?
- Who Is Trying To Destroy The Internet?
- BPA-Free, With Regrets
- Was Euclid A Black Woman? Sorting Through The False History And Bad Philosophy Of Mathematics
- President Obama, Why Humans On Mars Right Now Are Bad For Science
- "Quite simply, the structure does not exist. What is observed is a fluctuation.BestT...."
- "First of all you are describing the binding of gluons flying away in opposite directions - zero..."
- "This is a joke, right?..."
- "Yes, exactly. I go into it some more here:..."
- "Ok looks as if I need to do a teaser trailer so you know what is in the link, if you had clicked..."
- How Many Genes Does It Take to Make a Person?
- To Avoid Adult Dysfunction Start 'IN UTERO'
- ACSH Medical Director Named One Of America's Top Pediatricians, We're In The Economist, And More
- The Math of Hunting and Fishing: When to Work Together
- Placebo: Bubbles Of Nothing Are Still Not Something
- People Who Take Drugs May Be Likelier to Commit Suicide