The influence of moderate and high formula docosahexaenoic acid on term baboon neonate tissue composition and clinical parameters

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Long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids (LCPUFA) are indispensable for normal infant growth and development. Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA, 22:6n-3) and arachidonic acid (ARA, 20:4n-6) are LCPUFA that play a critical role in central nervous system development. During the brain growth spurt, rapid accumulation of LCPUFA occurs in the brain and retina. Currently, insufficient evidence exists to determine optimal levels of dietary LCPUFA required during the perinatal period. In the context of a safety and efficacy study of dietary LCPUFA in baboon neonates, we examined the influence of medium and high levels of formula DHA levels on tissue fatty acid composition and hematological and clinical chemistry measures. Infant formulas were fed from birth to 12 weeks of age: Control (C, no DHA/ARA); 1? LCPUFA (L, 0.32%DHA/0.64%ARA); 3? LCPUFA (L3, 0.96%DHA/0.64%ARA). At 12 weeks, tissue DHA levels were more sensitive to dietary manipulations than ARA. While DHA in the cerebral cortex increased with higher concentrations of DHA, no differences between L and L3 were detected in the basal ganglia and limbic system. These findings indicate that current levels of LCPUFA in infant formula are not sufficient to optimize DHA levels in the developing cortex.
RBC, hematocrit, hemoglobin, and red blood cell distribution width (RDW) were significantly elevated by formula DHA and ARA. All erythrocyte values were within accepted normal ranges for infant baboons and no differences were detectable at 12 weeks. These data provide the first indication that dietary LCPUFA may influence hematopoiesis during the first weeks of life and mitigate the precipitous decline in red cell values associated with neonatal anemia.
All clinical chemistry parameters were normal up to 12 weeks of age. Many of the trends observed were similar to those documented in human infant development. No negative effects on growth measures, hematological or clinical assessments were observed between formula groups. These results suggest that levels of DHA higher than presently included in US infant formulas enhance cerebral cortex DHA and may provide additional benefits by improving erythropoiesis. They also provide a basis for interpretation of parallel human infant studies currently underway.

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Arachidonic acid; ARA; Long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acid; LCPUFA; DHA; Non-human primate; Hematology; Clinical chemistry; Infant nutrition; Infant formula; Central nervous system; Fatty acid


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