Childhood is a period of rapid growth where optimal nutrition is crucial to meet increased nutritional needs. Fish is a source of nutrients which are essential for growth and development, including protein, iron, vitamin D and n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids. Although fish consumption has been linked to a number of benefits of child development, recent figures have shown that fish intakes are lowest amongst young children.
Childhood is a period when dietary habits and preferences are established, therefore we hope to investigate the factors influencing fish consumption amongst young school children across Northern Ireland, to understand the motivators and barriers to consumption and further explore how intakes can be increased. Instilling good dietary habits surrounding fish consumption during childhood may help to increase consumption in later life.
Autoimmune diseases, such as systemic lupus erythematosus, are conditions where the immune system damages healthy cells within the body. Fish is one of the primary sources of n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) within the diet. N-3 PUFAs have been shown to possess immune modulating properties and may help to reduce inflammation and disease activity.
Fish, however, also contain methylmercury which has been associated with markers of the immune response. We aim to further understand the risks, and benefits of fish consumption on the immune system which may have consequences for the management of some autoimmune conditions.
Globally, fish represents a major dietary source of protein for many populations. Previous intervention studies have shown fish protein to possess potential benefits for body composition. We hope to utilise data collected as part of the Seychelles Child Development Study to understand the associations between fish consumption and body composition within a high fish-eating cohort. Outcomes from this research may have significant implications for major public health concerns such as obesity and sarcopenia.
Recent national diet surveys have shown that fish consumption remains low amongst young adults with the majority currently failing to meet the government guidelines of two portions of fish per week. Fish consumption has been shown to have many benefits for health, particularly in relation to the development of chronic diseases such as cardiovascular disease.
Although diagnosed in later life, risk factors for these chronic diseases have been shown to develop over the duration of an individual’s life, beginning in early adulthood. We hope to explore the effects of fish consumption on the health of young adults which may have significant implications for the prevention of chronic diseases.