BABIES who do not get enough omega-3 fatty acids from their mothers during pregnancy are at risk for developing vision and nerve problems. Michael Bamuwamye, a researcher with the Natural Chemotherapeutics Research Laboratory says: â€œWe all need omega-3 fatty acids, be it growing children, the elde
BABIES who do not get enough omega-3 fatty acids from their mothers during pregnancy are at risk for developing vision and nerve problems. Michael Bamuwamye, a researcher with the Natural Chemotherapeutics Research Laboratory says: â€œWe all need omega-3 fatty acids, be it growing children, the elderly, and those living with HIV.â€
There are three major types of these fatty acids: alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA).
Once eaten, the body converts ALA to EPA and DHA which are more readily used by the body. They can only be obtained from food. Bamuwamye says EPA and DHA play a crucial role in the body. DHA is a critical component of the eye and the brain tissues which ensures the proper development of those organs in the foetus and infants in general.
â€œIt is also a major component of the testes and sperm,â€ he says. On the other hand, EPA is reported to lower the risk of asthma in children. It has also
been suggested that omega-3 FAs in general may play a big role in transporting oxygen from the lungs to the cells.
â€œOmega-3 FAs enhance immune responses and help in weight management by increasing the metabolic rate of the body,â€ says Bamuwamye. While an adequate intake of Omega-3 fatty acids is important for pregnant and breastfeeding mothers, we all need a sufficient supply of this important food nutrient, a Ministry of Health
official has said.
According to wikipidea.org, omega-3 fatty acids are a family of unsaturated fatty acids. They can be found in salmon, tuna and halibut fish, other marine life such as algae and krill, plants (including purslane), and nut oils.
Also known as polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs), omega-3 fatty acids play a crucial role in brain function as well as normal growth and development. â€œThese fatty acids are highly concentrated in the brain and are particularly important for
memory, performance and behavioral function,â€ notes www.umm.edu, a University of Maryland Medical Centre website.
Symptoms of omega-3 fatty acid deficiency include extreme tiredness (fatigue), poor memory, dry skin, heart problems, mood swings or depression, and poor circulation.
The fatty acids also reduce inflammation and help prevent risk factors associated with chronic diseases such as heart disease, cancer, and arthritis. It is important for people to maintain a balance of omega-3 and omega-6 (another essential fatty acid) in the diet.
â€œAn inappropriate balance of these fatty acids contributes to the development of disease while a proper balance helps maintain and even improve health,â€ he
Some studies have suggested that a healthy diet should consist of roughly two to three times more omega-6 fatty acids than omega-3 fatty acids.
Bamuwamye, however, says there is no established optimumrequirement for omega-3 FAs.
But because the metabolism and effects of those oils last two to three weeks in the body, fresh
omega-3 fish should be eaten at least every two weeks. Bamuwamye says Lake Victoria fishes are a good source
of omega-3 fatty acids. â€œHowever, Nile River Perch (Lates niloticus) has the highest levels (700mg/100g), found in any sea food.
Its protein is high (20%) and in addition, it contains several micronutrients (vitamin and minerals) that are also important in the dietetic management of heart diseases, hypertension and cancer,â€ he
Bamuwamye says boiled, broiled or baked fresh fish is better. â€œFrying and deep-frying destroy all oils and is not recommendable.
Similarly, smoked perch is not good since most of the oils have either been destroyed or lost during the smoking,â€ he says.
Grasshoppers (nsenene) also contain appreciable amounts of omega-3 FAs. â€œA very high omega-6/omega-3 ratio, found in most diets today, may be responsible for many ailments including heart diseases, hypertension, cancer, diabetes, obesity, inflammatory and autoimmune diseases, and premature ageing,â€ he says.
â€œThere also is evidence that low levels of omega-3 acids are associated with hyperactivity in children, suicide and violence,â€ he adds.
Bamuwamye says it is advisable to consume more omega-3 FAs from vegetable and marine sources.
Eat fish to control chronic illnesses