Analysis of the Provision of Omega-3 (n-3 EFAs) in Private Children’s Day Care (CDC) in Leeds: A Mixed Methods Study

By Meg Kennedy

Abstract

Background

In today’s society, there are an increasing number of children placed in day care. Over the last few decades, there has also been a considerable amount of research into the nutritional importance of omega-3 fatty acids (n-3 EFAs) in children under five and although there are voluntary guidelines such as those outlined by the Children’s Food Trust (CFT, 2012), there is no government legislation stipulating requirements for the provision of n-3 EFAs to children in private children’s day care (CDC).

 

Aims and Objectives

The aim of this study was to review the relevant literature to understand the essential role of n-3 EFAs in the development of children under five, to investigate and identify the current provision of food containing n-3 EFAs in private CDC in Leeds, to compare this provision to the guidelines set out by the CFT (2012), and if necessary to explore potential barriers to providing the required intake of n-3 EFAs and how to overcome them.

 

Methods

The investigation used two tools. Firstly, a survey containing 35 questions to be answered by owners and managers of CDC settings in Leeds who were willing to participate in this study. The questions were grouped by theme and contained scope for qualitative as well as quantitative answers. Secondly, CDC settings had the option to submit menus for qualitative analysis. Menus were visually scanned for foods rich in n-3 EFAs (such as oily fish).

 

Results

Sixteen participants (20.5%) completed the survey of which 4 (25%) provided the study with menus. The results of the survey suggested the CDC settings which participated in the study incorporated adequate quantities of food rich in n-3 EFAs, a total of 95% respondents state serving oily fish at least once a week (50% once a week and 45% 1-2 times per week). However, there are concerns about potential bias in these results, and analysis of the menus submitted contradicted this finding, suggesting that provision of n3 EFAs in the CDC settings who took part in the study was not adequate.

 

Conclusion

The results of this study suggest food provision in private CDC needs to change as it continues to be deficient in health-promoting nutrients, specifically n-3 EFAs. Further research is required into how CDC provides food, along with unambiguous and clear mandatory standards and funding for training if sufficient amounts of n-3 EFAs are to be provided for the under-fives. Furthermore, advice and guidance for Nutritional Therapists is suggested in order to support CDC settings where required.