Growth & Metabolism / Preterm

A history of expertise in lipid science in preterms

8910111213Dietary lipids provide preterm infants with most of their energy, together with essential fatty acids and lipid soluble vitamins.1 The quantity and quality of dietary lipids can have a direct impact on growth and body composition. Their supply is of particular importance to preterm infants as their natural stores are very limited. 2–4

The first to include LCPUFAs

Long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids (LCPUFAs) are naturally present in human milk and have an important role in infant development, particularly in terms of the brain and nervous system. Danone Nutricia Research has been conducting research into LCPUFAs since 1983; we were the first company to include LCPUFAs in our preterm formulae in the early 1990’s, bringing our milk fat blend closer to the lipid profile found in human milk.

And Phospholipid bound DHA (PL-DHA)

Human milk fats naturally occur mainly as triglycerides (TG) but also as phospholipids (PL). LCPUFAs in PL-bound form are more closely related to the form in which they occur in the body, particularly within the brain and eye. Furthermore, it is this PL fraction that provides a relatively large portion of arachidonic acid (ARA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) to infants5 – two LCPUFAs which have been linked to cognitive benefits.6 PL-DHA is also more efficiently absorbed by infants than TG-DHA.7

We were the first to include PL-bound LCPUFA in the fat blend of our infant formula range, including our preterm offerings. Since that time, many studies have been published that support its positive effects in preterm infants.7–13 

And now beta-palmitate

From 2017 onwards, Danone Nutricia Research have upgraded the milk fat blend across their preterm formulae to include beta-palmitate. One of the most common fatty acids in human milk, beta-palmitate is a structural lipid component associated with improved calcium absorption and softer stools (digestive comfort). This upgrade is a reflection of our on-going commitment to optimise our formulations in order to provide superior nutrition to preterm infants.

Working towards the ideal lipid profile

Our latest fat blend, containing LCPUFA, PL-bound DHA and ARA, and beta-palmitate (sn-2 palmitate), is now even closer to the lipid profile found in human milk. Furthermore, it contains medium-chain triglycerides which have shown many positive effects in preterm infants.8–13

The new fat blend offers three main benefits:

  1. Growth and metabolism – human milk lipids with sn-2 palmitate enable infants to digest, absorb and utilise calcium more efficiently which is important for bone development.
  2. Brain – LCPUFAs are essential for brain development and PL-bound LCPUFA have shown to be readily incorporated into the brain14. Preclinical trials showed that an increased palmitic acid on the sn-2 position contributes to improved fatty acid absorption.
  3. GI function – A study showed that infants fed with a high beta-palmitate infant formula had:15
    • Increased calcium absorption
    • Better fat absorption
    • Softer stools
    • Stool characteristics and biochemistry intermediate between that of breast-fed infants and those fed a standard infant formula.

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      Tsang REA. Nutrition of the preterm infant: scientific basis and practical guidelines. Cincinnati, Oh. 2005.
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