Early Lipids Can Boost The Brain’s Growth for Vulnerable Micro-preemies

Dietary lipids are an important energy source for tiny preemies. They provide a vital brain boost by significantly increasing the global brain volume. They also increase the volume in the regions involved in memory and motor activities. This is according to results presented during the Pediatric Academic Societies 2019 Annual Meeting.

Case study

Micro Preemies

Micro Preemies

Intake of lipids during a life’s first month is normally associated with an increase in regional and overall brain volume for micro-preemies. This is according to Catherine Limperopous, Ph.D. She said that by the use of non-invasive magnetic resonance imaging, there is an increase in total brain volume in the cerebellum by the age of 2 weeks. At the age of 4 weeks, lipids increase the total brain volume and also boost it in the:

  • Cerebellum
  • Brainstem
  • Amygdala-hippocampus

The cerebellum controls almost all physical movement. It also enables balance and coordination.

The Amygdala is in charge of processing and storing short-term memories. On the other hand, the hippocampus is in charge of managing mood and emotions.

The brainstem is like a router because it passes messages from the brain to the rest of your body. It also enables important functions such as swallowing, breathing and a steady heart rate.

In the U.S., about one of every 10 babies is born preterm. This is according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Brain regions play important roles in the complex cognitive and motor activities. They experience a late exponential growth rate in pregnancy. This makes preterm infants’ developing brains vulnerable to impaired growth.

Children’s case study

Children’s research facility examined the implications of lipid intake during the first month of living on brain volumes for infants with low birth weight. These infants weighed 1,500 grams or less when born. The micro-preemies are very vulnerable to neurocognitive impairment and growth failure after birth.

The team enlisted 68 micro-preemies aged 32 weeks and below once they were admitted to the Children’s neonatal intensive care unit during week one of life. They also measured the cumulative macronutrients consumed by the newborns at two and four weeks of life.

Katherine M. Ottolini said that even after controlling average weight gain among other health conditions, intake of lipids was associated positively with cerebellar and brainstem volumes in preterm infants with very low birth weight.


Limperopoulos says that Children’s future research is going to examine the volume of lipids and optimal timing to boost the neurodevelopment for micro-preemies.

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