Targeting inflammation in the preterm infant: The role of the omega-3 fatty acid docosahexaenoic acid

Naomi H. Fink, Carmel T. Collins, Robert A. Gibson, Maria Makrides, Irmeli A. Penttila

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article

5 Citations (Scopus)


Long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids are critical for the normal growth and development of preterm infants. Interest in these compounds rests in their anti-inflammatory properties. Clinical conditions with an inflammatory component such as bronchopulmonary dysplasia, necrotising enterocolitis and sepsis are risks to the survival of these infants. Dysregulation of inflammatory responses plays a central role in the aetiology of many of these neonatal disorders. There is evidence to suggest that the omega-3 long chain polyunsaturated fatty acid docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) can down-regulate local and systemic inflammation in adults and animal models; however, very little is known about its protective effects in infants, especially preterm infants. Due to their immunological immaturity, preterm infants are particularly sensitive to diseases with an inflammatory aetiology in the early postnatal period. This makes DHA supplementation immediately after birth to combat neonatal inflammation an attractive therapy. Mechanistic data for DHA use in preterm infants are lacking and results from adult and animal studies may not be relevant to this population because of fundamental immune system differences. While there is increasing evidence from randomised controlled trials to support a beneficial effect of DHA for the preterm infant, more evidence is required to establish short and long-term effects of DHA on the immune status of preterm infants.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)55-60
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Nutrition and Intermediary Metabolism
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sep 2016


  • Docosahexaenoic acid
  • Immunoregulation
  • Inflammation
  • Long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acid
  • Preterm infant

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
  • Food Science
  • Nutrition and Dietetics

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