Preterm infants are born before the critical period of lipid accretion and brain development that occurs during the third trimester of pregnancy. Dietary lipids serve as an important source of energy and are involved in complex processes that are essential for normal central nervous system development. In addition to traditional neurodevelopmental testing, novel quantitative magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) techniques are now available to evaluate the impact of nutritional interventions on early preterm brain development. Trials of long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acid supplementation have yielded inconsistent effects on neurodevelopmental outcomes and quantitative MRI findings. Recent studies using quantitative MRI suggest a positive impact of early lipid intake on brain volumes and white matter microstructural organization by term-equivalent age.

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