Premature babies are known to encounter health issues as they do not receive all nutrients from their mothers during gestation. In terms of nutrition for preterm children, scientists from the American Chemical Society have developed a new designer fat from hazelnuts to be used in infant formulas.

Mother’s milk is naturally known to contain optimal amounts of essential omega-6 fatty acid ARA (arachidonic acid) and omega-3 fatty acid DHA (docosahexaenoic acid). However, preterm babies do not seem to receive these nutrients in the last 3 months of gestation. Moreover, milk of mothers giving birth prematurely does not appear to carry these substances in adequate proportions.

This is the reason why making such ingredients available via alternative sources is crucial. Basically, ARA and DHA do not reach the babies from their mothers’ uterus as they are born before the gestation period gets over. The team therefore designed artificial fat from hazelnut oil that replicated the effects of these beneficial constituents found in mother’s milk.

According to the scientists, the fat derived from hazelnuts is safe for use in infant formulas. Presently, ARA and DHA obtained from algae are mixed with baby foods. However, these compounds may not be easily digestible to babies as they are not exactly similar to those found in human milk.

This new fat made from hazelnut oil apparently carried DHA and ARA in the same amounts as that found in mother’s milk. Findings reported in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, show that such fats can be added to formulas for providing premature babies with optimal nutrition as they grow up.