Do we need weight-related guidelines for omega-3, or just to get more in general?

By Nathan Gray

- Last updated on GMT

Do we need weight-related guidelines for omega-3, or just to get more in general?

Related tags Body weight Nutrition Eicosapentaenoic acid Omega-3 fatty acid

Body size and weight plays an important role in the benefits that can be gained from omega-3 supplements, according to a new RCT that suggests age-related guidelines for children may cause issues due to big differences in body shape.

In the trial, researchers from The Ohio State University compared fatty acid uptake after children took a supplement to both overall body weight and body-mass index – finding that higher weight or BMI scores were linked to lower measures of eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA).

“Guidelines for suggested intake of omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) are limited in youth and rely primarily on age. However, body weight varies considerably within age classifications,”​ said the team, writing in PLOS One.

“The current study demonstrates clear linear relationships of both body weight and BMI with plasma omega-3 PUFA accumulation in children and adolescents,”​ added the authors – led by Dr Lisa Christian. “These data did not show that clinical overweight or obesity were particularly predictive; rather, a dose-response effect was observed across the BMI spectrum.”

According to Christian, it is important to recognise that weight and size differences can factor into how children and adults respond to medications and nutritional supplementations.

"Weight, rather than age, may be more meaningful when determining recommended doses. The difference in size between a 7-year-old and a 10-year-old can be quite significant," ​she said.

However, commenting independently on the study’s findings, Harry Rice, PhD, VP of regulatory & scientific affairs for the Global Organization for EPA and DHA Omega-3s (GOED), told us that more research is needed to justify weight based recommendations, regardless of age.

“While the present results are certainly interesting and I don't want to discount their value, more research is necessary,”​ he said. “Even if the research existed, population based nutrient recommendations need to be easily implemented and cover a wide-range of individual differences.”

Rice added that it is currently most important to focus on increasing overall intakes of EPA and DHA ‘across the board’.

“When we do finally see weight-based recommendations being made, I suspect it will be for treatment of specific health conditions, not for maintenance of general health and wellness,”​ he added.

Source: PLOS One
Published online ahead of print, doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0173087
“Body weight affects ω-3 polyunsaturated fatty acid (PUFA) accumulation in youth following supplementation in post-hoc analyses of a randomized controlled trial”
Authors: Lisa M. Christian, et al

Related topics Regulation & Policy

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