Hyderabad: Consumption of single type of vegetable oil does not ensure optimal intake of fatty acids and their balance of omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids in the body due to which reason National Institute of Nutrition has recommended that there must be use of a combination of two or more vegetable oils on rotational basis by the people. This recommendation is because the intake of fats in the Indian population is income dependent and also highly skewed. There are regional preferences for the type of edible oil and it has been found that most Indians consume only one type of oil from one source throughout their life.
The recommendation is to use oils in rotation so that the health benefits from all sources can be drawn. Oils rich in omega 6 fatty acids are sunflower, safflower, corn oil while those in omega 3 are oils from flax seeds, soy, mustard and canola oil. Dr R Hemalatha, director of NIN explained, “Use of wide sources of vegetable oils provides a wider variety of minor bioactive compounds which are health promoting and also help in the preconception stage. A healthy combination of fats is also required for a healthy baby and this begins much before pregnancy. In the preconception stage, it is important that there is a right balance of omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids in the body.”
It has been found that the intake of omega 3 fatty acids is not sufficient in the Indian population due to which reason there are pre-term births, low weight child birth and also maternal death. According to the World Health Organisation 45,000 women died from preventable pregnancy complications in India in 2015. Nutritional experts state that while the consumption of omega 6 fatty acids is high, the balance has titled as omega 3 fatty acids is not very high.
Professor Tom Brenna, past president of International Society of Fatty Acids and Lipids explained, “The fatty acids are an important nutritional intake for pregnant and lactating women and play an important role in developing the child’s brain. It is very important to maintain the balance for the proper development of the child.” Brain is the fattiest organ in the body and it continues to grow till a child is adolescent.
Professor Michael Crawford, an expert on fats, fatty acids and its impact on the brain and senior member of ISSFAL explained, “The role of lipids in a pregnant woman has found that 70 per cent of the cells arrive in the first week of conception. Hence maximum formation of the brain is in the pre natal stage of life and for that reason the fat storages in the mother must be adequate and balanced to allow for the appropriate growth of the foetus. Due to this inappropriate growth of the brain there are diseases like autism, cerebral palsy and other mental illness which are seen in children. Adequate and balanced combination of fatty acids is very important for the growth of healthy children.”
In the Indian population the major challenges noted are that people have only one type of oil for years together and are not willing to shift their oils. Due to the vegetarian diet, the intake of fish is not possible for them and state that vegetarians can opt for omega 3 in green leafy vegetables, walnuts and oils of flax seed, canola and soya bean. The non-vegetarians must make fish a part of their diet so that they get sufficient intake of these fatty acids.
To ensure that the intake is optimal, the cooking methods mean that foods rich in omega 3 must be cooked in omega 3 oils and not mixed with oils of omega 6 as otherwise the ratio gets tilted again. This is because omega 6 is pro-inflammatory while omega 3 is anti-inflammatory. The absorption of fats in the body is adequate as the body requires it for the energy and is stored by cells for a longer period of time. Experts state that young mothers must improve their nutrition before conception as the growth of the baby depends on their lipid combinations apart from the genetic variants.