New US research reports that only about 54% of US children under the age of five regularly consume fatty fish providing intakes of docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), a polyunsaturated fatty acid important for cognitive development.
The observational study analyzed the consumption of fatty fish and estimated omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acid intakes of 2,496 children aged 12 to 60 months (1). The study results showed that only about 54% of children had eaten fish at least once in the previous month. Non-Hispanic black children were more likely than non-Hispanic white children to have eaten fish. The intake of DHA in children 12 to 60 months of age was low – lower than what infants generally consume – and it did not increase with age. The ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 intake was high (about 10:1), a potential indicator of a less healthy diet.
The researchers commented that omega-3 fatty acids play an important role in cell function, inflammation, eye development and neural processes. While there is no official dietary recommendation for omega-3 fatty acid intake or supplementation among children in the US, the Institute of Medicine has defined a reasonable intake level of two 3-oz servings of fish per week for children. According to the actual findings, however, children are clearly not consuming this much fish. In addition, the researchers found that the overall intake of omega-3 fatty acids among US children is only a fraction of what is regularly consumed by young children in Canada for example. Other studies suggest that similarly low intakes exist in kids ages five and older. By incorporating key omega-3 fatty acids into a child's diet at a very early age, they may be more likely to be-come part of a lifelong diet, the scientists said.