March 11/Health & Medicine Week -- A recent study published in the Journal of Nutrition found that most Canadian children are deficient in Omega-3 EPA/DHA. The study found that 78% of the children trialed were not receiving adequate amounts of Omega-3 EPA and DHA in their diets.
Researchers from the University of Guelph in Ontario found that the median daily consumption of Omega-3 EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) was only 31.5mg, in a sample group of 4-8-year-olds. In this study, researchers used the suggested daily intake recommended by the Institute of Medicine -- 90mg of Omega-3 EPA/DHA per day. Even using this recommendation level, the study shows that 78% of the sampled Canadian children were well below the recommended level. The study also notes that the recommendation by the American Dietician Association and the Dieticians of Canada is 351mg of EPA/DHA per day. Based on this recommendation, 90% of the children in the study were deficient in Omega-3 EPA/DHA. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services indicates that in the U.S., the average consumption of Omega-3 EPA/DHA for children 4-8-years of age is only 50mg/day. Therefore, although the study only involved Canadian children, American children are also well below the recommended levels.
Omega-3 EPA/DHA is essential at all stages of life. For infants up to the age of three, DHA is essential for the development of the brain and eyes. After the age of three, both EPA and DHA are important for cognitive function, and research suggests that it may improve behavior and learning disorders, including Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and Developmental Coordination Disorder (DCD). Additionally research indicates that Omega-3 EPA/DHA may reduce inflammatory conditions such as asthma, childhood depression, and reduce the risk of type 1 diabetes.
The researchers from Guelph University 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 (Omega-3) DHA/EPA, the increased availability of foods that have been nutritionally enriched with various delivery forms of LC PUFA (Omega-3) (DHA/EPA), and the use of supplementation where necessary."
From the March 16, 2009, Prepared Foods E-dition