Maternal & child nutrition

Modelling linoleic acid and α-linolenic acid requirements for infants and young children in developing countries.

PMID 23167585


Essential fatty acids (EFAs), linoleic acid (LA) and α-linolenic acid (ALA), play a critical role in the growth and development of infants and young children. However, national guidelines for recommended intakes of EFAs are lacking in most developing countries. The objective of this study was to convert international EFA recommendations based on % of daily energy intake to recommended daily amounts for children aged 6-23 months in developing countries. The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) reports adequate intakes (AIs) for ALA as 0.4-0.6% of energy intake for children 6-23 months of age and as 3.0-4.5% of energy intake for LA. In order to estimate energy intakes, FAO daily energy requirements based on body weight were used. The daily AI amounts for these EFAs were calculated using the median body weight of the World Health Organization (WHO) Growth Standard population and median body weights with varying levels of malnutrition. The AI for ALA is equivalent to 0.3-0.4, 0.3-0.5 and 0.4-0.6 g day(-1), and the AI for LA is equivalent to 2.1-3.1, 2.4-3.5 and 2.8-4.3 g day(-1) for children aged 6-8, 9-11 and 12-23 months, respectively. While the lower median body weights of children in developing countries and associated reduced energy intake recommendations give lower estimated EFA requirements, recommendations based on median body weights in the WHO Reference Growth Standard is suggested. The upper levels of these calculated AIs are lower than or equal to those in North America (ALA: 0.5 and 0.7 g day(-1); LA: 4.6 and 7 g day(-1) for children aged 6-12 months and 1-3 years, respectively). The FAO AIs (g day(-1)) calculated here for ALA and LA can serve as a guideline for developing countries for setting national standards.