Proceedings of the Nutrition Society

Research Article

Rationale for using new lipid emulsions in parenteral nutrition and a review of the trials performed in adults

Conference on ‘Malnutrition matters’ Symposium 4: Hot topics in parenteral nutrition

on 4–5 November 2008, The Annual Meeting of the Nutrition Society and BAPEN, was held at Harrogate International Centre, Harrogate.

Philip C. Caldera1 c1

a1 Institute of Human Nutrition, School of Medicine, University of Southampton, IDS Building, MP887 Southampton General Hospital, Tremona Road, Southampton SO16 6YD, UK


Lipids traditionally used in parenteral nutrition are based on n-6 fatty acid-rich vegetable oils such as soyabean oil. This practice may not be optimal because it may present an excessive supply of linoleic acid. Alternatives to the use of soyabean oil include its partial replacement by so-called medium-chain TAG (MCT), olive oil or fish oil, either alone or in combination. Lipid emulsions containing MCT are well established, but those containing olive oil and fish oil, although commercially available, are still undergoing trials in different patient groups. Emulsions containing olive oil or fish oil are well tolerated and without adverse effects in a wide range of adult patients. An olive oil–soyabean oil emulsion has been used in quite small studies in critically-ill patients and in patients with trauma or burns with little real evidence of advantage over soyabean oil or MCT–soyabean oil. Fish oil-containing lipid emulsions have been used in adult patients post surgery (mainly gastrointestinal). This approach has been associated with alterations in patterns of inflammatory mediators and in immune function and, in some studies, a reduction in the length of stay in the intensive care unit and in hospital. One study indicates that peri-operative administration of fish oil may be superior to post-operative administration. Fish oil has been used in critically-ill adults. Here, the influence on inflammatory processes, immune function and clinical end points is not clear, since there are too few studies and those that are available report contradictory findings. One important factor is the dose of fish oil required to influence clinical outcomes. Further studies that are properly designed and adequately powered are required in order to strengthen the evidence base relating to the use of lipid emulsions that include olive oil and fish oil in critically-ill patients and in patients post surgery.

(Online publication May 11 2009)


c1 Corresponding author: Professor Philip C. Calder, fax +44 2380 795255, email