The influence of dietary long chain polyunsaturated fatty acid (LCP) supply, and especially of docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), on evoked potential maturation, was studied in 58 healthy preterm infants using flash visual evoked potentials (VEPs), flash electroretinography (ERG), and brainstem acoustic evoked potentials (BAEPs) at 52 weeks of postconceptional age. At the same time, the fatty acid composition of red blood cell membranes was examined. The infants were fed on breast milk (n = 12), a preterm formula supplemented with LCP (PF-LCP) (n = 21), or a traditional preterm formula (PF) (n = 25). In the breast milk and PF-LCP groups the morphology and latencies of the waves that reflect the visual projecting system were similar; in the PF group the morphology was quite different and the wave latencies were significantly longer. This could mean that the maturation pattern of VEPs in preterm infants who did not receive LCP was slower. Moreover, a higher level of erythrocyte LCP, especially DHA, was found in breast milk and PF-LCP groups compared with the PF group. ERG and BAEP recordings were the same in all three groups. These results suggest that a well balanced LCP supplement in preterm formulas can positively influence the maturation of visual evoked potentials in preterm infants when breast milk is not available.
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