Boost the Attention of the Child with Essential Fatty Acids

Oleh: Morinaga Platinum

The various options of ingredients and food menu around us do not ensure the fulfillment of nutritional requirements, particularly for a child who is still undergoing the growth and development process. The data from the Basic Health Research in 2013 demonstrated that the results for nutritional status and nutritional intake in children is still an issue in Indonesia. Stunting or short stature is a serious national problem, corresponding to 37.2% of the population.

One of the important nutrients required by the body other than carbohydrates, proteins, vitamins, and minerals are fats. The benefits of fats for the body include acting as an energy source for growth and activities, supporting the health of body organs (kidney, liver, heart) and assisting the absorption of vitamins (A, D, E, and K). According to international recommendations, the child requires a fat intake of 15-20% of their daily caloric intake.

Fats are also a source of essential fatty acids, a type of nutrient required in the growth and development of the brain of the child. Essential fatty acids are building blocks for myeling sheath, a membrane covering the brain nerve cells that function to speed up the functions of the brain. A perfectly formed myelin sheath will increase the attention required and the studying process becomes much faster.

Essential fatty acids are also beneficial for the gene stimulation process which functions to produce brain nerve cells. By this stimulation, the body of the child becomes able to produce more brain nerve cells that will support the increase in their attention.

Even though some types of fats can be produced by the body, unfortunately, essential fatty acids are unable to be produced by the body and can only be obtained from food or supplements. So, it is very important for parents to know the sources of essential fatty acids and how much is required for the child to have a good attention.

The central nervous system is rich in two derivatives of essential fatty acids, which are alpha-linolenic acid (omega 3) and linoleic acid (omega 6). The body requires omega 3 and omega 6 for brain functions, as both of these are primary components in the structural formation of brain cell membranes. A deficiency in omega 3 intak can lead to impairments in vision and learning behaviours.

Omega-6 is present in vegetable oils, such as corn oil, soybean oil, sunflower seed oil, as well as nuts and grains. Meanwhile, there are two types of omega-3 that are important, which are long chain omega-3 (eicosapentaenoic acid/EPA and docosahexaenoic acid/DHA) and short chain omega-3 (alpha linolenate/ALA). EPA and DHA are present primarily in saltwater fish, such as salmon, mackerels, and sardines. Meanwhile, ALA is largely found in plants, such as flaxseeds, walnuts, and soy beans.

The following are intake recommendations for essential fatty acids required to speed the attention of the child:

Essential Fatty Acids

Recommendations

1-3 years

4-8 years

9-13 years

Alpha-linolenic acid

(Omega 3)

700 mg

900 mg

1200 mg

Linoleic acid

(Omega 6)

7 g

10 g

12 g (laki-laki)

10 g (perempuan)

Examples of omega-3 contents in daily food ingredients.:

  • 1 teaspoon of corn/canola oil contains 411 mg of omega-3.
  • 1 egg: 100 mg of omega-3.
  • 114 grams of tofu: 300 mg of omega-3.
  • 28 grams of salmon: 425 mg of omega-3.

Examples of omega-6 substances in daily food ingredients:

  • 1 teaspoon of sunflower seed oils: 3 grams.
  • 1 teaspoon of corn oil: 2.4 grams.
  • 1 teaspoon of soybean oil: 2.3 grams.

By knowing the daily recommended intake and observing the type of food substances rich in essential amino acids, parents are enabling the child to attain their optimal potential by providing them with the right food.  

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