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Childhood nutrition study aims to understand the role of fat

July 22, 2014
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Many children are picky eaters, and many parents worry that their children are not getting a wide enough variety of nutrients. Young children may be uncomfortable trying new foods, or averse to foods with strong flavours or challenging textures. Childhood is a time of rapid growth, and fat is an important source of energy for children. Essential fats are fats that humans cannot make and must consume as part of their diet.

Recent studies have shown that certain foods are important for young children’s growth and development, but the role of fat in the diet is not well understood. To learn more about the role of fat in kids’ diets, a team of researchers at CFRI are studying the diets of children at five years of age and what influences their eating habits. Led by Dr. Sheila Innis, the team hopes to learn whether the essential fats that children eat influence their physical growth, as well as their learning and behaviour.

Omega-3 fats are particularly important, as they are the building blocks of cells in the brain. There are two types of omega-3 fats – alpha linolenic, found in plants, and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) which comes from animals, especially oily fish including salmon and mackerel. 

Scientists do not know which or what amount of omega-3 fats is required for optimum health. Many food products are fortified with DHA, but whether supplements or fortification are beneficial is not known. Additionally, vegetarians do not get DHA or EPA from animal sources.

In order to understand the role that these essential fats play in human development, Dr. Innis’ team is recruiting five-year-old kids to participate in a study

Parents will answer questions about their child’s diet, and children will complete play-like activities to assess their development. This information, plus a small blood sample from parent and child, will contribute to improved understanding of childhood nutritional requirements and better guidelines for child health.

For more information, or to participate in the study, visit the CFRI Nutrition website.

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