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Weight control strategies that are both safe and effective are needed to reduce the rate of the current obesity epidemic. People incorporating fortified meal replacements are more likely to have adequate essential nutrient intakes compared to a group following a more traditional food group diet.

A study published in the Nutrition Journal compared the macronutrient and micronutrient levels in the foods chosen by women following two different weight reduction programs.

Ninety-six generally healthy overweight or obese women randomly placed into two treatment groups: Traditional Food Group (TFG) or a Meal Replacement Group (MRG). The MRG included the use of 1-2 meal replacement drinks or bars per day. Both groups aimed to restrict energy levels to approximately 1,300 calories per day. After one year, weight loss was not significantly different between the groups, and both groups had macronutrient (Carbohydrate:Protein:Fat) ratios that were within the ranges recommended. Both groups experienced an improved dietary pattern with respect todecreased saturated fat, cholesterol, and sodium, with increased total servings/day of fruits and vegetables. However, the TFG had a significantly lower dietary intake of several vitamins and minerals compared to the MRG and were at greater risk for inadequate intake.

Although both groups successfully lost weight while improving overall dietary adequacy, the group incorporating fortified meal replacements tended to have a more adequate essential nutrient intake compared to the group following a more traditional food group diet. This study supports the need to incorporate fortified foods and/or dietary supplements while following an energy-restricted diet for weight loss.

Ashley JM et al. Nutr J. 2007 Jun 25; 6:12.

Polyunsaturated fatty acids, in particular Omega-3 DHA (docosahexaenoic acid), are essential nutrients structural and functional components of brain cell membranes. DHA, together with EPA, (eicosapentaenoic acid) plays important roles in the central nervous system, and are essential for normal brain functioning including attention and other neuropsychological skills.

In a large observational study, research scientists monitored 810 children from 5 to 12 years of age seeking medical help for ADHD, whom have been recommended by a physician to take  omega-3 and omega-6 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA) supplementation in combination with zinc and magnesium over a period of at least 3 months. The objective of the study was to evaluate the nutritional effects of the PUFA-zinc-magnesium combination on symptoms of attention deficit, impulsivity, and hyperactivity as well as on emotional problems and sleep related parameters. Assessment was performed by internationally standardized evaluation scales, i.e. SNAP-IV and SDQ.

After 12 weeks of supplementation, most children showed a considerable reduction in symptoms of attention deficit and hyperactivity/impulsivity assessed by SNAP-IV.  Further, the assessment by SDQ revealed fewer emotional problems at the end of the study period compared to baseline and also sleeping disorders. Problems with falling asleep decreased during the 12 week nutritional therapy.

Due to the poor dietary patterns in industrialized western countries, with high amounts of processed food products containing mostly very low levels of long chained omega-3 fatty acids (DHA and EPA), there is a discrepancy between desirable and actual intake of these important essential fatty acids in both adults and children. Results from this study suggest a low risk, favourable beneficial effect of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids supplementation combined with magnesium and zinc on attentional, behavioural, and emotional problems of children and adolescents.

Huss et al. Lipids in Health and Disease 2010, 9:105

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