HYDERABAD: A study by the National Institute of Nutrition (NIN) has flagged the poor intake of foods rich in Omega-3 Poly Unsaturated Fatty Acids (PUFA) among school-going children in Hyderabad. The study involved 625 children aged 7-13 years, from three government and two private schools in the city whose dietary intake was collected and assessed by NIN researchers.
Blood samples were also collected of 214 children for plasma fatty acid estimation.The NIN study reports that although 80 per cent of the children consumed fish, the intake frequency was very low - only 100 grams in a month. Moreover, most of them were found to be consuming fresh water fish and less than 4% of them had marine fish as part of their diet. The NIN recommends 100 to 200gm of fish per week.
“The study found that although the majority of children (96 per cent) were non-vegetarians, their marine fish consumption was low. Consumption of walnuts, flax seeds, and chia seeds was also found to be very low,” said Dr P Devraj, Scientist ‘C’ at NIN and lead author of the study.
While fishes, especially marine ones like salmon, mackerel and sardines are an important source of Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) , flax seeds, chia seeds, nuts such as walnuts and selected plant seed oils such as soybean and mustard, are important sources of Alfa-Linolenic Acid (ALA).
“Efforts need to be taken up to increase the consumption of foods such as nuts, oil seeds, fish and sea foods rich in Omega-3 PUFA to improve cognition, concentration and behaviour among children,” said Dr Hemalatha R, Director of NIN.
The Omega-3 PUFA includes essential fatty acids ALA, DHA and EPA which are not synthesised in enough quantities by the human body and it becomes necessary that foods rich in fatty acids be consumed because they are required for normal metabolism and various functions of the body, including maintaining optimum nervous and cardiovascular health.