Preterm infant language development: a role for breast milk fatty acids


  • Tatiana Toro Ramos Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, New York
  • Maria Dalva Barbosa Baker Méio Fernandes Figueira Institute/Fiocruz
  • Denise Streit Morsch Fernandes Figueira Institute/Fiocruz
  • Maria Elisabeth Lopes Moreira Fernandes Figueira Institute/Fiocruz
  • Maria Das Graças Tavares do Carmo Federal University of Rio de Janeiro
  • Rosely Sichieri State University of Rio de Janeiro
  • Daniel J. Hoffman The State University of New Jersey



fatty acids, essential, cognition, language, breastfeeding, preterm infants


Premature infants have an increased risk of developmental disabilities during infancy and childhood. A crucial period of fetal polyunsaturated fatty acid accretion bypassed with prematurity. Objective: to study how the fatty acid composition of breast milk in breast-fed premature infants is associated with cognitive, language, and motor development. Methods: participants included twenty-five healthy preterms, born adequate for gestational age at the Fernandez Figueira Institute, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Fatty acid composition of breast milk samples from the first week postpartum was analyzed using gas-liquid chromatography. Bayley-III developmental scales were applied at 9 or 12 months corrected age. Results: regression analyses revealed that the ratio of linoleic acid to alpha-linolenic acid was positively associated with receptive language development (â = 1.49, p = 0.03). Women with preterm infants showed breast milk long chain polyunsaturated fatty acids concentrations consistent with worldwide levels and a high ratio of linoleic acid to alpha-linolenic acid that might be beneficial for language development in the premature infant. Conclusion: a higher ratio of linoleic to alpha-linolenic acid in breast milk could exert beneficial effects for receptive language development in preterm infants fed breast milk. Larger adequately powered longitudinal studies are recommended to better understand the breast milk composition of this population and its association to developmental indices during infancy.

Biografia do Autor

Tatiana Toro Ramos, Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, New York

New York Obesity Nutrition Research Center, St. Luke’s-Roosevelt Hospital and Institute of Human Nutrition, Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, New York.

Maria Dalva Barbosa Baker Méio, Fernandes Figueira Institute/Fiocruz

Department of Neonatology, Fernandes Figueira Institute/Fiocruz.

Denise Streit Morsch, Fernandes Figueira Institute/Fiocruz

Department of Neonatology, Fernandes Figueira Institute/Fiocruz.

Maria Elisabeth Lopes Moreira, Fernandes Figueira Institute/Fiocruz

Department of Neonatology, Fernandes Figueira Institute/Fiocruz.

Maria Das Graças Tavares do Carmo, Federal University of Rio de Janeiro

Josué de Castro Nutrition Institute, Federal University of Rio de Janeiro.

Rosely Sichieri, State University of Rio de Janeiro

Institute of Social Medicine, State University of Rio de Janeiro.

Daniel J. Hoffman, The State University of New Jersey

Department of Nutritional Sciences, Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey.


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