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HYDERABAD: A study by the National Institute of Nutrition (NIN) revealed poor intake of foods rich in omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA) among school children in Hyderabad. The study included 625 children aged 7 to 13 from three state and two private schools in the city, whose food intake was collected and assessed by NIN researchers.
Blood samples were also taken from 214 children to determine plasma fatty acid levels. The NIN study reports that although 80 percent of the children consumed fish, the intake frequency was very low – only 100 grams per month. In addition, most of them were found to consume freshwater fish and less than 4% of them had marine fish as part of their diet. The NIN recommends 100 to 200 grams of fish per week.
“The study found that although the majority of the children (96 percent) were non-vegetarians, their marine fish consumption was low. The consumption of walnuts, flax seeds and chia seeds was also very low, ”said Dr. P. Devraj, Scientist “C” at NIN and lead author of the study.
While fish, especially marine like salmon, mackerel, and sardines, are an important source of docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), flax seeds, chia seeds, nuts like walnuts and selected vegetable oils like soy and mustard are important sources of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) ).
“Efforts need to be made to increase the consumption of foods such as nuts, oilseeds, fish and seafood that are rich in omega-3 PUFAs to improve children’s awareness, focus and behavior,” said Dr . Hemalatha R, director of NIN.
The omega-3 PUFA contains the essential fatty acids ALA, DHA and EPA, which are not synthesized by the human body in sufficient quantities and it becomes necessary to consume foods rich in fatty acids as they are required for normal metabolism and various functions of the body including maintaining optimal nervous and cardiovascular health.