Omega-3 neglected in malnutrition product formulations: Researchers

By Annie Harrison-Dunn contact

- Last updated on GMT

© iStock.com / borgogniels
© iStock.com / borgogniels
Omega-3 content is a neglected issue when formulating products to combat severe acute malnutrition in children, say international researchers.

“Current therapeutic feeds do not correct whole-blood levels of LCPUFA [long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids], particularly omega-3 LCPUFA, in children with severe acute malnutrition,” ​they wrote in the British Journal of Nutrition. 

The researchers from the Mulago Hospital and Makerere College of Health Sciences in Uganda, University of Copenhagen in Denmark and University of Waterloo in Canada called for “increased attention” ​to the issue. 

The paper looked at the whole-blood fatty acid composition of 120 children with severe acute malnutrition in Uganda at admission, transition, discharge and follow-up (eight and 16 weeks) as well as 29 healthy control children.

"Fatty acids are good sources of energy. However, effects of n-3 and n-6 fatty acids go far beyond their role as fuels, as they are essential nutrients with important physiological functions," ​the researchers wrote.

 A deficiency in these fatty acids can therefore result in scaly skin, reduced growth and increased infections among others."​  

The children followed standard malnutrition treatment: milk-based formula F-75 as soon as possible after admission to restore physiological and metabolic functions, electrolytes and body weight; followed by a formula F-100 for energy and protein to support rapid catch-up growth and/or a ready-to-use therapeutic feed (RUTF). 

RUTF products are typically continued after discharge up to an average of eight weeks. 

The results showed a significant increase in omega-6 levels in the children during treatment.

However the researchers said decreases in omega-3 and arachidonic acid (AA) proportions from admission to discharge presented a “particular concern”​ given AA and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) play key functional roles in the brain, retina and immune system.   

“F-75 and F-100 formulations with higher omega-3 PUFA contents to decrease omega-6:omega-3 ratio and preformed LCPUFA may need to be considered in therapeutic diets for children with severe acute malnutrition,”​ they concluded. 

 

Source: British Journal of Nutrition

Published online ahead of print, doi:10.1017/S0007114516000817

“Changes in whole-blood PUFA and their predictors during recovery from severe acute malnutrition”

Authors: E. sther Babirekere-Iriso, C. G. Mortensen, E. Mupere, M. J. H. Rytter, H. Namusoke, K. F. Michaelsen, A. Briend, K. D. Stark, H. Friis and L. Lauritzen 

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