Most Canadian kids are omega-3 deficient: study

By Shane Starling

- Last updated on GMT

North American children do not receive enough omega-3 in their diets, according to new research which found only 22 percent of young children received adequate amounts of the long-chain omega-3 fatty acids, DHA and EPA.

The researchers from the University of Guelph in Ontario found daily consumption of EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) at 38.4mg and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) 54.1mg, in a sample group of 4-8 year-olds.

At these levels only 22 percent of the 41 Canadian children trialed received Institute of Medicine-recommended levels for EPA and DHA.

In comparison, at 1161mg per day, 61 percent of children received adequate alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) levels, a fact the researchers put down to its wider availability in the diet.

“The substantial intake of ALA is not surprising in view of its common occurrence in canola oil, soybean oil, flaxseed, walnuts, and processed foods containing these ingredients as constituents,”​ the researchers wrote.

But the researchers did not go as far as to say whether, this apparently low level of longer-chain omega-3 intake results in suboptimal health in this age group.”

Methods and findings

The research, published in the March edition of the Journal of Nutrition, ​analyzed the dietary patterns of the 41 children over three days, found EPA and DHA was mostly consumed in the form of fish and seafood and represented only seven percent of total omega-3 intake.

Comparison was made with a recent Australian and New Zealand study that found only 51 percent of children met the intake for EPA/DHA and another long-chain omega-3 fatty acid, DPA (docosapentaenoic acid).

With the assistance of parents, they collected data from a typical week day as well as a weekend day in a three-day window.

The researchers said it was the first rigorously obtained evidence demonstrating DHA and EPA deficiencies among Canadian children.

They concluded: “There is an apparent need to create greater awareness of the importance of the long-chain (LC) omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA) among both health professionals and the general public as well as the existing gap between actual and recommended intakes from various sources. This gap can be readily filled with an increased consumption of fish/seafood containing DHA/EPA, the increased availability of foods that have been nutritionally enriched with various delivery forms of LC PUFA (DHA/EPA), and the use of supplementation where necessary.”

Source: Journal of Nutrition

March 2009, Volume 139. Pp 528-532

Direct diet quantification indicates low intakes of (n-3) fatty acids in children 4 to 8 years old”

Authors: Sarah M M Madden, Colin F Garrioch, Bruce J Holub

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