Healthy fats make leaner kids, says study

By Nathan Gray contact

- Last updated on GMT

Healthy fats make leaner kids, says study

Related tags: Nutrition, Fat

Children who report eating more polyunsaturated fatty acids are leaner and have lower body fat percentages than those who consume higher amounts of saturated fats, say researchers.

The study, reported in The Journal of Nutrition, ​analysed data from a group of racially diverse US children aged between seven and 12 years old to examine how self-reported intakes of polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) are associated with measures of adiposity and lean mass (LM) in children.

Led by Dr Michelle Cardel from the University of Colorado, Denver, the team found that a higher self-reported intake of PUFAs and a higher ratio of PUFAs to saturated fatty acids (SFAs) were associated with increased lean mass, reduced abdominal fat and a lower body fat percentage.

"Studies have identified a variety of benefits of including PUFAs into an adult's diet, particularly omega-3 fatty acids,"​ said Cardel. "Our data suggests that consumption of PUFAs is associated with improved body composition in diverse groups of children.”

“It's important to note, however, that this study was cross-sectional and no causation can be concluded. Randomised experiments are needed to confirm these findings."

Study findings

Cardel and her colleagues looked at a group of racially diverse children ages 7-12 (39% European-American, 34% African-American, and 27% Hispanic-American). Each child, with parental supervision, provided two separate self-reports of their 24-hour dietary intakes.

Children’s body composition and abdominal fat distribution were measured by dual energy x-ray absorptiometry and computed tomography scans, respectively.

The team found that those who ate more PUFAs and had a higher ratio of PUFA: SFAs in their reported diet were leaner, had less body fat and less abdominal adiposity.

“Intakes of omega–3 and omega–6 PUFAs were positively associated with LM, and the ratio of omega–6 to omega–3 PUFAs was negatively associated with intra-abdominal adipose tissue,”​ wrote the team – adding that all results were independent of biological, environmental, and genetic covariates.

"Hopefully this work will stimulate additional research to determine if there is a causal relationship between dietary PUFAs, body fat and lean mass in kids,"​ said Cardel.

Source: The Journal of Nutrition
Published online ahead of print, doi: 10.3945/​jn.115.212365
“Higher Intake of PUFAs Is Associated with Lower Total and Visceral Adiposity and Higher Lean Mass in a Racially Diverse Sample of Children”
Authors: Michelle Cardel, et al

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