In the first study to closely examine the polyunsaturated fatty acid (PUFA) intake among U.S. children under the age of 5, Sarah Keim, PhD, principal investigator in the Center for Biobehavioral Health at The Research Institute at Nationwide Children's Hospital, has found what might be a troubling deficit in the diet of many youngsters. The study, published online today by Maternal and Child Nutrition, used data on nearly 2500 children age 12 to 60 months from the U.S. National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey.
PUFAs are essential to human health. A proper ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 PUFAs plays an important role in cell function, inflammation, eye development and neural functioning. However, the ideal dietary intake of PUFAs for young children is unclear. Knowing that infants often receive significant amounts of key PUFAs through breast milk and infant formula during the first year of life, Dr. Keim and her colleague, Amy Branum, PhD, MSPH, of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, decided to estimate the average intake of PUFAs in the diet for children between infancy and kindergarten.
"The ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 intake was highabout 10. Some experts use this as an indicator of diet quality, with a high ratio being less healthy," says Dr. Keim. "In addition, intake of a key fatty acid known as DHA in children 12 to 60 months of age was lowlower than what infants generally consumeand it did not increase with age."
Dr. Keim's study was also the first to examine the primary dietary sources of PUFA intake among children under the age of 5 and to examine age, race and ethnicity in relation to fish intake in this age group. Fish are an excellent source of fatty acids, such as DHA and EPA, and were shown to be the richest sources of PUFAs in children's diets.
"Only about 54 percent of children ate fish at least once in the previous month. Non-Hispanic black children were more likely than non-Hispanic
|Contact: Gina Bericchia|
Nationwide Children's Hospital