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Toxic 'fats' in preemie supplement.

As neonatologists have helped ever tinier babies survive, they have unwittingly fostered certain epidemics: notably, retinopathy of prematurity (a blinding eye disorder) and bronchopulmonary dysplasia (an emphysema-like scarring of preemies' lungs). Because oxygen-spawned reactions can initiate both, physicians no longer bathe premature babies in oxygen. 50 why haven't these disorders all but disappeared?

The answer, a team of researchers now suggests, may lie in the high-calorie emulsions that pediatricians prescribe to spur the tiny babies' growth. These supplements harbor potentially toxic levels of oxidized lipids (fats) and their breakdown products, Harold J. Helbock and his colleagues at the University of California, Berkeley, report in the January PEDIATRICS.

The scientists chemically analyzed one of the most widely prescribed lipid emulsions used to fortify premature infants. Its vegetable-oil-derived unsaturated fatty acids are highly susceptible to oxidation, a class of harmful, often oxygen-mediated reactions. Once inside the body, the resulting peroxides and their breakdown products may propagate further peroxidation - eventually damaging biologically important lipids even in distant organs, such as the eyes or lungs.

While others had observed signs of possible lipid peroxidation in this supplement, Helbock says his team was the first to directly measure their minute levels. The 15 samples they tested, representing three production batches, contained an average of 290 micromoles of peroxides per liter of supplement - or more than 10,000 times the normal peroxide concentrations in blood. "We know of no data to suggest that intravenous administration of lipid peroxides in the concentrations found in our study is safe or beneficial," Helbock's team writes. "Quite
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Title Annotation:high-calorie emulsions cause harmful oxygen-mediated reactions
Author:Fackelmann, Kathy A.
Publication:Science News
Article Type:Brief Article
Date:Jan 30, 1993
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