In undersized infants, intake of omega-3 fatty acids could prevent the development of cardiovascular disease and stroke, says study.
This suggests that the use of Omega supplements for the first five years of a child's life may prevent the development of such life-threatening conditions.
"People who were small at birth have an increased risk of cardiovascular disease," said Michael Skilton of the University of Sydney's Boden Institute of Obesity, who led a study on the subject, the journal Paediatrics reports.
The definition of small at birth applies to the lowest 10 percent of birth weights of all babies, according to a University of Sydney statement.
Participants belonged to one of two groups of 616 children. The omega-3 group received a 500 mg daily fish oil supplement from the start of bottle-feeding or six months of age until five years of age. They were also supplied with canola-based margarines and cooking oil for the same period.
The control group (normal babies) received a 500 mg daily sunflower oil supplement from the start of bottle-feeding until five years of age. They were supplied with Omega-6 fatty acid-rich margarines and cooking oil.
At eight years of age these children were tested for the presence of arterial wall thickening, an indicator of early atherosclerosis associated with later cardiovascular disease.
The children receiving the sunflower supplement had thicker arterial walls if they were small at birth. This was prevented in the children receiving the Omega-3 supplement.
"The results of the paper suggest that babies born small may benefit from a daily Omega-3 supplement, however further studies are required to confirm this," concluded Skilton.