According to the results of a recent survey looking at children’s dietary and lifestyle patterns, children from lower socioeconomic backgrounds, particularly those from the North of England, are less likely to have a healthy diet and lead a healthy and active lifestyle.
Of the 200 parents surveyed, children living in the North of England and those from the poorest families were the least likely to consume breakfast (many experts suggest this is the most important meal of the day), and likeliness of children eating breakfast dropped as they got older. Parents from the poorest socioeconomic groups were also the least likely to express that their child ate healthily, which contrasted strongly with the wealthiest families.
When asked about diet and fruit consumption, 16% of children from poorer families reported consuming no fruit daily, compared with 7% of children from well off families.
In response to questions about their children’s general health, children from the higher socioeconomic group reported less illness.
Intake of omega-3 from oily fish, vitally important nutrients for children’s brain growth, learning and development, seemed to vary quite significantly between regions. Consumption of oily fish such as salmon, mackerel, sardines and herring was reported to be extremely low in the North East ranging from 0-8% of children, compared with 13-47% of children living in Greater London. On the other hand, white fish (which contains only low amounts of omega-3 fats) is eaten regularly by children in the North East, with cod being particularly popular with 58% of children, and fish fingers eaten by 42% of children.
According to Dr Nina Bailey, “Diet and consumption of omega-3 fats can have profound implications for health. Low intake of omega-3s, particularly omega-3 EPA fish oil, as well as low intake of fruit and vegetables, is associated with higher rates of childhood learning disorders, such as ADHD and dyslexia, as well as common allergies such as asthma, inflammatory problems such as eczema, and even being overweight. The variance in dietary patterns across different regions of the UK is particularly concerning – not least because those who can’t afford to eat oily fish and fresh fruit and vegetables appear to be those most in need of these nutrients.”
Encouraging children to eat oily fish can be difficult, but with high quality concentrated supplements available, purified fish oil offers a convenient and safe solution. With its high EPA content, Dr Nina Bailey recommends Vegepa Chewables EPA omega-3 fish oil, which contain omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids in the optimum ratio to restore a healthy balance in the body. Affordability is often the deciding factor when it comes to purchasing omega-3 supplements, though taking higher doses of cheaper supplements is not the answer, according to Dr Nina Bailey. “Extracting the EPA from fish oil and adding an ethyl-ester to stabilise it can significantly increase the concentration by simply disregarding unnecessary fats. This is extremely important in terms of health benefits, because very high concentrations of EPA in ethyl-ester form have a higher uptake in the body than formulations with low EPA concentration. In other words, taking higher doses of a cheaper, lower quality supplement will not provide the same health benefits due to the low uptake in the body.” Igennus Healthcare Nutrition provides an information pack that can be presented to GPs, with a view to obtaining the health supplement on prescription; Igennus receives several hundred prescriptions monthly for its concentrated pure EPA omega-3 fish oil supplements. To download Igennus’ health pack, visit www.igennus-hn.co
About the research
The research was undertaken by The Survey Shop and is based on a sample of 200 parents in England. Analysis of the data was provided by Dr Nina Bailey, nutrition scientist based at Igennus Healthcare Nutrition.