Only 50% to 60% of Australian children are eating enough omega-3 fatty acids, which are commonly found in fish and crucial for brain development, a University of Wollongong study has found.
Researchers from the University of Wollongong’s School of Health Sciences and Metabolic Research Centre examined data on the dietary habits of 4486 children aged between two and 16 years old drawn from the Australian Social Science Data Archive.
They found that as much as half the children in Australia were not getting enough omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids such as those found in oily fish like salmon or sardines.
“Furthermore, only 6% of children met the adjusted suggested dietary target for long-chain omega 3 polyunsaturated fatty acids per day,” the study found.
“Most Australian children are not consuming enough long-chain omega 3 polyunsaturated fatty acids for optimal health.”
Long chain omega-3 fatty acids aid brain development and cardiovascular health, said lead researcher, Dr Barbara Meyer.
“Children should consume these long chain omega-3 directly (with fish or seafood being the major food source), rather than rely on the conversion from the plant source of omega-3,” she said.
Children who cannot eat seafood should try to consume foods enriched with omega-3s such as special breads, eggs or milks, she said.
“The danger of not getting enough is that the children are not consuming these important fatty acids for optimal health and hence not reducing their risk of chronic diseases such as cardiovascular disease.”
“Other research has shown that adolescents supplemented with fish oils reduced their risk for cardiovascular disease.”
The study was published in the journal Nutrition.
Dr Meyer’s co-researcher, Nithin Kolanu, received a scholarship from The Omega-3 Centre, which has links to companies that produce nutritional supplements and foods.