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Brain Dev. 2013 Jan;35(1):45-52. doi: 10.1016/j.braindev.2012.03.004. Epub 2012 May 24.

The pilot study: sphingomyelin-fortified milk has a positive association with the neurobehavioural development of very low birth weight infants during infancy, randomized control trial.

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Department of Pediatrics, Juntendo University, School of Medicine, Bunkyo-ku, Tokyo, Japan.



This study was a randomised control trial to examine the effects of sphingomyelin (SM), on the mental, motor and behavioural development of premature infants.


Randomised, double-blind controlled trial, enroling infants born with a birth weight of less than 1500 g between January 2004 and October 2007 at Juntendo University Hospital, with follow-up to 18 months. Twenty-four preterm babies were randomly assigned; 12 were assigned to a test group and fed SM-fortified milk (SM 20% of all phospholipids in milk) and 12 were assigned to a control group (SM 13% of all phospholipids in milk). We analysed the composition of the plasma phospholipids and red-cell-membrane fatty acids, after which VEP, Fagan, BSID-II, attention and memory tests were performed.


The percentage of SM in the total phospholipids was significantly higher in the trial group than in the control group at 4, 6 and 8 weeks. The Behaviour Rating Scale of the BSID-II, the Fagan test scores, the latency of VEP, and sustained attention test scores at 18 months were all significantly better in the trial group than in the control group.


This study is the first to report that nutritional intervention via administration of SM-fortified milk has a positive association with the neurobehavioural development of low-birth-weight infants. However, detailed studies on the effects of SM on longer-term development are required.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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