The fatty acid compositions of the major cerebral cortex phospholipids, phosphatidylcholine, phosphatidylethanolamine, and phosphatidylserine were measured in 16 term and one preterm 'cot death' infants fed exclusively either breast milk or one of two formulas. Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA; C22:6n-3) content in cerebral cortex phosphatidylethanolamine and phosphatidylserine of breast fed infants was greater than in both formula groups with significances varying between p < 0.1 and p < 0.001. Compensation for this deficiency in DHA in the formula fed infants was largely achieved by increased incorporation of docosapentaenoic acid (C22:5n-6) in the cerebral cortex of term infants and Mead (C20:3n-9) and dihomo Mead acids (C22:3n-9) in the preterm infant. As the phospholipids most affected are known to perform an important role in membrane function and are possibly integral to neurotransmission it is recommended that breast milk substitute infant formulas should contain n-3 and n-6 series polyunsaturated fatty acids in proportions similar to those of human milk.
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