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Omega-3 Fatty Acid Intakes Are Below Recommendations In Most Children

Studies revealed that the majority of the pediatric population may fall short of recommended dietary intakes of omega-3 fatty acids.

According to NHMRC Nutrient Reference Values for Australia and New Zealand, the daily Adequate Intake of essential fatty acids and omega-3 fats such as DHA/EPA/DPA is 55mg/day for children aged 4-8 years of age. However estimates of actual dietary intake of these beneficial fatty acids are limited in children.

A study in the Journal of Nutrition has published direct quantification of fatty acid intakes in 41 children aged 4-8 years.  Identical portions of all food and dietary supplements consumed over 3 days were collected. Duplicate samples were analyzed for calories, macronutrients, and fatty acids, including alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), docosapentaenoic acid (DPA), and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA).

Based on the dietary analysis, the children averaged 1,404 kcal energy intake per day, and their fatty acid intakes were at the following levels in mg/day: alpha-linolenic acid 1,611; EPA 38.4; DPA 26.3; and DHA 54.1.

Based on the US government recommended Dietary Reference Intakes (DRI), 61% of the children met the adequate intake for ALA, and only 22% met the recommended intake for DHA + EPA. These intakes were compared with recently established Australia/New Zealand recommendations for children, where only about half the children (51%) met suggested intakes for EPA + DPA + DHA.

The result of this study indicates a significant deficit in the actual intakes of polyunsaturated fatty acids, including DHA, among Canadian and Australian children when compared to recommended intakes. This deficit gap can be readily filled with an increased consumption of fish/seafood, foods (dairy products, breads, and others) that have been enriched with various delivery forms of omega-3 EFA, and the use of supplementation where necessary.

Madden SM et al; J Nutr. 2009 Mar; 139(3):528-32.

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