Kids need more polyunsaturated fatty acids

September 24, 2013

Young children don’t eat enough fish and other foods containing polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs), particularly the n-3 ones, according to the first study to look at polyunsaturated fat consumption in children aged younger than 5 years.

 

Young children don’t eat enough fish and other foods containing polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs), particularly the n-3 ones, according to the first study to look at polyunsaturated fat consumption in children aged younger than 5 years.

Using data from the US National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, researchers from Ohio and Maryland conducted a cross-sectional study of almost 2,500 children between the ages of 1 and 5 years.

They found that barely more than half (53.7%) of the children had consumed fish, an important source of healthy polyunsaturated fats, in the past 30 days. Non-Hispanic black children were more likely than non-Hispanic white children to have done so (64.0% vs 53.0%, respectively).

The investigators also found that mean daily intake of n-6 PUFAs and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) was lower among children aged 1 to 2 years than among children aged 4 to 5 years, and that intake of docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) was low (20 mg day−1) compared with that of the typical infant who gets DHA through breast milk and/or formula during the first year of life. Intake of DHA did not change much with age. Compared with non-Hispanic white children, Mexican American children had higher DHA and arachidonic acid (AA) intake.

The investigators explained that not only are PUFAs essential to human health, but maintaining the proper ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 PUFAs is important for optimal cell function, eye development, neural functioning, and reducing inflammation. The researchers found the ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 intake to be high among the children studied-about 10. Experts often use this ratio as an indicator of diet quality. A high number indicates a less healthy diet.

The findings suggest that room for improvement exists in the diets of American children. If your patients don’t like fish, other food sources of polyunsaturated fats include sunflower, corn, soybean, and flax seed oils; walnuts; and flax seeds.

 

 

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