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Ala and child obesity

March 12, 2015
Fresh vegetables

Did you know recent study shows children who consume “healthy fats” (alpha-linolenic acid aka ALA) are less likely to become overweight?

In February, 2015 the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition published a study that found that the amount of Omega 3 ALA was inversely correlated with fat cell quantity in school age children in Colombia. The research, primarily conducted through Harvard Medical School, followed 668 school children for almost 3 years. Over the course of the children’s lives, various Omega 3 and Omega 6 PUFAs (poly unsaturated fatty acids) were monitored for intake levels along with the children anthropometrics.

At the end of the observation period, the Omega 3 fatty acid ALA was found to inversely relate to body mass index with respect to age. This correlation was found after adjusting for sex, age, weight, and most importantly, household socioeconomic level. The researchers determined that Omega 3 ALA “may be protective against weight gain in school-age children.” (Perng et al, 2015, abstract). While many proponents of healthy eating should not be surprised with these results, it is very intriguing and influential to note that it is not just PUFAs, but ALA spificially that was found to correlate. Yes, EPA, DHA and various Omega-6s were monitored, with no significant correlations to weight gain.

Take away: What is interesting to note here is that ALA, not EPA nor DHA was found to be inversely correlated with weight gain. EPA and DHA are known for being highest in fish and grass-fed meat products, with multiple cardio-protective benefits. ALA is most commonly in vegetables, nuts and seeds, and is not touted as highly as EPA and DHA (perhaps due to some purported findings of linking ALA with prostate cancer, that have since been refuted). Therefore, it is the potential that the children that consumed highest levels of ALA, were also the children that consumed the highest quantity of vegetables / plant products. Children need to eat their vegetables. 18% of 6-11 year olds are obese and over 33% are overweight (CDC statistics, 2012). This needs to be fixed if we (the world) are to have a healthy future.

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