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Revista Brasileira de Geriatria e Gerontologia

versão impressa ISSN 1809-9823versão On-line ISSN 1981-2256

Rev. bras. geriatr. gerontol. vol.22 no.6 Rio de Janeiro  2019  Epub 15-Jun-2020

https://doi.org/10.1590/1981-22562019022.190287 

Original Articles

Analysis of consumption of omega 3 source foods by participants of social groups

Fhaira Petter da Silva Stefanello1 
http://orcid.org/0000-0003-1929-5462

Adriano Pasqualotti2 
http://orcid.org/0000-0001-7544-9425

Nadir Antonio Pichler3 
http://orcid.org/0000-0001-8534-7326

1Universidade de Passo Fundo (UPF), Programa de Pós-graduação em Envelhecimento Humano, da Universidade de Passo Fundo (UPF). Palmeira das Missões, RS, Brasil.

2Universidade de Passo Fundo (UPF), Departamento de Estatística e Matemática, Programa de Pós-graduação em Envelhecimento Humano, da Universidade de Passo Fundo (UPF). Passo Fundo, RS, Brasil.

3Universidade de Passo Fundo (UPF), Departamento de Filosofia, Programa de Pós-graduação em Envelhecimento Humano, da Universidade de Passo Fundo (UPF). Passo Fundo, RS, Brasil.


Abstract

Objective:

To verify the consumption of omega 3 source foods by participants of social groups.

Method:

a cross-sectional, descriptive analytical study was carried out with 850 older participants of social groups of the Older Adult Care Coordination (or DATI) in a city in the state of Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil, through a questionnaire containing sociodemographic variables and the consumption of omega 3 source foods. Data were analyzed using the R 2.15.1 language and using the Chi-square and Fisher’s exact tests. The level of significance used in the tests was p≤0.05.

Results:

The results showed that older women have a habit of consuming more omega 3 source foods than men, such as oils, dark green vegetables, seeds, fish and nuts, and people with greater purchasing power consume more products with omega 3.

Conclusion:

Families with greater purchasing power used more expensive sources of omega 3 fatty acid, and the consumption of these products did not differ significantly in terms of age, BMI, marital status and whether the individual lived alone or with others.

Keyword: Nutrition; Health of the Elderly; Fatty Acids Omega-3; Food Consumption

Resumo

Objetivo:

verificar o consumo de alimentos fontes de ômega 3 por participantes de grupos de convivências.

Método:

A pesquisa é do tipo transversal, descritivo/analítico, realizada com 850 idosos, participantes de grupos de convivência da Coordenadoria de Atenção ao Idoso (DATI), de uma cidade no estado do Rio Grande do Sul, Brasil, por meio de um questionário contendo variáveis sociodemográficas e consumo de alimentos fontes de ômega 3. Os dados foram analisados por meio da linguagem R 2.15.1, utilizando testes de qui-quadrado de Pearson e exato de Fisher. O nível de significância utilizado nos testes foi p≤0,05.

Resultados:

Os resultados do estudo demonstraram que as mulheres idosas possuem o hábito de utilizar mais alimentos fontes de ômega 3 do que os homens, como óleos, vegetais escuros, sementes, peixes e nozes e as pessoas com maior poder aquisitivo consomem mais produtos com ômega 3.

Conclusão:

Famílias com maior poder aquisitivo utilizaram fontes mais caras do ácido graxo ômega 3 e o consumo desses produtos não diferiu significativamente em relação a idade, IMC, estado marital e viver só ou com alguém.

Palavras chaves: Nutrição; Saúde do Idoso; Ácidos Graxos Ômega 3; Consumo de Alimentos

INTRODUCTION

With the advances in medicine, technology and lifestyle of recent decades, life expectancy has increased significantly1. According to the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics2, there are 30.2 million people aged over 60 in Brazil, causing a significant change in the country’s age pyramid.

Aging is a natural process of human life. Over time, physiological, physical, psychological, brain and social changes occur as a result of this process3,4. However, healthy habits developed throughout life, such as the practicing of physical activity, a healthy lifestyle, autonomy and suitable food choices play a fundamental role in quality of life5.

Dietary patterns are one of the main determinants of health. The beneficial effects of eating foods with protective functions are well known, and include a reduction in the risk of mortality4. The consumption of omega 3 fatty acids is associated with numerous health benefits1,5, such as the improvement of the metabolic syndrome, the reduction of abdominal obesity, insulin resistance, dyslipidemia and hypertension. There is also a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, symptoms of depression, weight, postprandial satiety and inflammatory diseases6-10.

The fatty acids of the omega 3 series, formed by linolenic acid, docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosapentaenoic acid (DPA), constitute a group of lipids that exercise significant functions in the body, being incorporated into the phospholipids of the membranes of the cells and optimizing their biological function. This optimization particularly occurs in the structure and function of the glia and endothelium brain cells, strengthening memory and neuroinflammatory control, as well as in the retina, testicles, heart, liver and kidneys4,11-14. Various benefits have been reported from the ingestion of omega 3, such as the reduction of inflammatory eicosanoids, cytokines and reactive oxygen species, preventing and treating cardiovascular diseases, inflammatory diseases and infections and reducing the occurrence of injuries, immunological changes and acting in the reduction of cognitive decline7,8.

With the aging process, there is the possibility of the appearance of cardiac, endocrine and dementia pathologies and the development of inflammation and oxidative stress8. The use of omega 3 supplementation can lead to reductions in oxidative stress, a decline in the expression of pro-inflammatory proteins and an increase in the expression of anti-inflammatory proteins, as well as improvement in the cognitive decline associated with pathologies, classified as mild to moderate8-10.

An integrative literature review study15, with the objective of identifying the use of omega 3 supplementation and its performance in cognitive development in older adults, found a reasonable improvement in cognitive performance, memory and cerebrovascular and arterial function, while also pointing out that further studies are still required.

There is a lack of data in Brazilian15 and international16,17 literature on the food-based consumption of omega 3 and its benefits among participants of social groups. Early diagnosis to identify the absence of these acids is intended to prevent disease and improve quality of life. Thus, the objective of the present study was to assess the consumption of omega 3 source foods by participants of social groups.

METHOD

A cross-sectional, descriptive/analytical and population based study was carried out in 2016, with 850 older adults participating in social groups of the Elderly Care Coordination (or DATI) in a city in the state of Rio Grande do Sul. The sample size (n=850) was defined for a finite population of 3,600 older adults and with a 95% confidence interval, based on a sampling error of 3%. The convenience sampling technique was used. The selection of participants was based on their availability to undertake activities in the DATI workshops.

The inclusion criteria were: participants linked to DATI social groups, while people with beta blockers, pacemakers or autoimmune diseases were excluded.

Before signing the Informed Consent Term (ICF), the researchers explained the objectives of the research and how the instrument should be completed. Afterwards, the participants signed the informed consent form and completed the questionnaire, in the classroom and during workshop activities at the DATI, which included dance, music, yoga and reading, etc. and lasted 15 minutes. The instrument consisted of sociodemographic variables (age, sex, education, marital status, risk factors such as muscle pain, medication use, bone disorders); questions about omega 3 supplementation in capsules and the consumption of omega 3 source foods, with a table with the source food and frequency of consumption: never, weekly, biweekly, monthly and yearly (animal and vegetable sources of omega 3 foods, such as DHA, EPA and ALA); soy oil and other oils (olive oil, canola and corn oil); vegetables (broccoli, cabbages and spinach); fish (sardines, salmon, tuna and cod); seeds (such as chia and flaxseed) and nuts, as well as the measurement of body mass index (BMI)18,19.

The data were analyzed using the R 2.15.1 language. Pearson’s Chi-square and Fisher’s exact tests were applied. The level of significance used in the tests was p≤0.05. The study was approved by the Ethics Committee of the Universidade de Passo Fundo (Passo Fundo University) (UPF), under opinion no. 1,023,088.

RESULTS

Of the 850 older participants, 739 (86.9%) were women and 111 (14%) were men. The mean age was 67.9 ± 8.0 years; in terms of education, 339 (42.1%) had up to 4 years of schooling, 367 (45.6%) from 5 to 10 years and 99 (12.3%) 11 years or more. In relation to income, 586 (71.9%) received up to R$1,575.99; with regard to marital status, 62 (7.3%) were single, 338 (39.8%) were married, 100 (11.8%) were separated or divorced, and 348 (40.9%) were widowed. A total of 524 (63.0%) of the older adults lived with someone.

Table 1 shows the results of the association between the sex of the sample studied (n=850) and the consumption of omega 3 source foods.

Table 1 Association between the sex of the sample (n=850) and the consumption of omega 3 source foods. 

Omega 3 source foods Sex p
Female Male
Soy oil Yes 560 (85.6%) 83 (84.7%) 0,760
No 94 (14.4%) 15 (15.3%)
Other oils Yes 269 (45.1%) 35 (37.6% 0,217
No 328 (54.9%) 58 (62.4%)
Dark green vegetables (broccoli, kale and spinach) Yes 652 (95.6%) 96 (93.2%) 0,314
No 30 (4.4%) 7 (6.8%)
Fish Yes 521 (78.3%) 81 (80.2%) 0,795
No 144 (21.7%) 20 (19.8%)
Seeds (chia and flaxseed) Yes 372 (58.7%) 32 (34.8%) 0,001
No 262 (41.3%) 60 (65.2%)
Nuts Yes 431 (69.1%) 63 (67.0%) 0,721
No 193 (30.9%) 31 (33.0%)

Fisher’s Exact Test; Significant value = p≤0.05.

The results in Table 1 indicate a significant difference in relation to the consumption of seeds between the sexes, with women consuming more seeds than men (p=0.001).

Table 2 shows the results of the relationship between the age group of the sample studied (n = 850) and the consumption of omega 3 source foods.

Table 2 Association between the age group of the sample studied (n = 850) and the consumption of omega 3 source foods. 

Omega 3 source foods Age range p
From 50 to 59 years From 60 to 79 years 80 years or over
Soy oil Yes 101 (92.7%) 491 (83.9%) 51 (87.9%) 0.051
No 8 (7.3%) 94 (16.1%) 7 (12.1%)
Other oils Yes 42 (40.8%) 234 (43.6%) 28(56.0%) 0.183
No 61 (59.2%) 303(56.4%) 22 (44.0%)
Dark green vegetables (broccoli, kale and spinach) Yes 110 (94.8%) 584 (95.6%) 54 (93.1%) 0.674
No 6 (5.2%) 27 (4.4%) 4 (6.9%)
Fish Yes 84 (73.7%) 472 (79.2%) 46 (82.1%) 0.336
No 30 (26.3%) 124(20.8%) 10 (17.9%)
Seeds (chia and flaxseed) Yes 64 (60.4%) 314 (55.5%) 26 (48.1%) 0.333
No 42 (39.6%) 252 (44.5%) 28 (51.9%)
Nuts Yes 73 (67.6%) 387 (69.5%) 34 (64.2%) 0.695
No 35 (32.4%) 170 (30.5%) 19 (35.8%)

Pearson’s Chi-square test; Significant value = p≤0.05.

The results of Table 2 do not indicate significant differences for consumption of omega 3 source foods, when compared with the age group.

Table 3 shows the results of the relationship between the income of the sample studied (n=850) and consumption of omega 3 source foods.

Table 3 Association between the income of the sample studied (n=850) and the consumption of omega 3 source foods. 

Omega 3 source foods Income p
Up to R$ 1,575.99 R$ 1,576.00 or more
Soy oil Yes 441 (85.5%) 174 (84.9%) 0.817
No 75 (14.5%) 31 (15.1%)
Other oils Yes 199 (42.5%) 96 (49.5%) 0.104
No 269 (57.5%) 98 (50.5%)
Dark green vegetables (broccoli, kale and spinach) Yes 505 (94.7%) 214 (97.7) 0.79
No 28 (5.3%) 5 (2.3%)
Fish Yes 393 (76.2%) 184 (84.4%) 0.014
No 123 (23.8%) 34 (15.6%)
Seeds (chia and flaxseed) Yes 268 (54.8%) 120 (58.0%) 0.454
No 221 (45.2%) 87 (42.0%)
Nuts Yes 322 (66.1%) 157 (77.3%) 0.004
No 165 (33.9%) 46 (22.7%)

Fisher’s exact test; Significant value = p≤0.05.

The results in Table 3 indicate a significant difference in relation to the consumption of fish (p=0.014) and nuts (p=0.004) based on income, showing that people who have an income greater than or equal to R$1,576.00 tend to consume more omega 3 source foods.

Table 4 shows the results of the relationship between the marital status of the studied sample (n=850) and the consumption of omega 3 source foods.

Table 4 Association between the marital status of the studied sample (n = 850) and the consumption of omega 3 source foods. 

Omega 3 source foods Marital status p
Single Married Separated/ Divorced Widowed
Soy oil Yes 48 (90.6%) 255 (85.9%) 78 (82.1%) 261 (85.3%) 0.568
No 5 (9.4%) 42 (14.1%) 17 (17.9%) 45 (14.7%)
Other oils Yes 14 (32.6%) 123 (43.6%) 38 (44.7%) 129 (46.1%) 0.423
No 29 (67.4%) 159 (56.4%) 47 (55.3%) 151 (53.9%)
Dark green vegetables (broccoli, kale and spinach) Yes 52 (94.5%) 304 (95.6%) 90 (94.7%) 300 (95.5%) 0.978
No 3 (5.5%) 14 (4.4%) 5 (5.3%) 15 (4.8%)
Fish Yes 40 (76.9%) 242 (78.1%) 74 (80.4%) 244 (78.7%) 0.956
No 12 (23.1%) 68 (21.9%) 18 (19.6%) 66 (21.3%)
Seeds (chia and flaxseed) Yes 22 (48.9%) 172 (57.9%) 52 (59.8%) 157 (53.0%) 0.413
No 23 (51.1%) 125 (42.1%) 35 (40.2%) 139 (47.0%)
Nuts Yes 33 (64.7%) 212 (72.4%) 56 (65.1%) 191 (66.8%) 0.362
No 18 (35.3%) 81 (27.6%) 30 (34.9%) 95 (33.2%)

Pearson’s Chi-square test; Significant value=p≤0.05.

The results of Table 4 do not indicate significant differences in the consumption of Omega 3 source foods based on marital status.

Table 5 presents the results of the relationship between the Body Mass Index (BMI) of the studied sample (n=850) and the consumption of omega 3 source foods.

Table 5 Association between Body Mass Index (BMI) of the sample studied (n= 850) and the consumption of omega 3 source foods. 

Omega 3 source foods Body Mass Index (BMI) p
Malnutrition Normal Weight Obesity
Soy oil Yes 53 (84.1%) 266 (82.6%) 324(88.3%) 0.102
No 10 (15.9%) 56 (17.4%) 43 (11.7%)
Other oils Yes 28 (46.7%) 132 (44.3%) 144(43.4%) 0.889
No 32 (53.3%) 166 (55.7%) 188(56.6%)
Dark green vegetables (broccoli. kale and spinach) Yes 66 (97.1%) 321 (95.0%) 361(95.3%) 0.759
No 2 (2.9%) 17 (5.0%) 18 (4.7%)
Fish Yes 51 (76.1%) 253 (76.7%) 298(80.8%) 0.398
No 16 (23.9%) 77 (23.3%) 71 (19.2%)
Seeds (chia and flaxseed) Yes 34 (55.7%) 166 (54.4%) 204(56.7%) 0.845
No 27 (44.3%) 139 (45.6%) 156(43.3%)
Nuts Yes 40 (65.6%) 213 (69.4%) 241(68.9%) 0.842
No 21 (34.4%) 94 (30.6%) 109(31.3%)

Pearson’s Chi-square test; Significant value = p≤0.05.

The results of Table 5 do not indicate a significant difference in the consumption of Omega 3 source foods based on Body Mass Index (BMI).

DISCUSSION

Omega 3 fatty acids are associated with preventing or reducing the severity of a multitude of diseases, from metabolic diseases such as heart disease, diabetes and kidney disease, neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s disease, and inflammatory diseases, including osteoarthritis. Omega 3 acts by attenuating the development of atherosclerosis or arterial plaques, reducing concentrations of inflammation-signaling molecules1,5.

Western diets, due to the disproportionate and high consumption of saturated fatty acids among a large part of the population, derived from foods of animal origin, contain fewer omega 3 fatty acids, a factor that increases the risk of type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular diseases7,20,21. Omega 3 fatty acids are found in greater quantities in the diet of the Mediterranean population, including older adults, as they are found in natural foods, such as nuts, flax seeds, chia and salmon.

Table 1 of the present study shows that men consume fewer seeds than women, possibly influenced by different eating habits. Consequently, it is women who have healthier diets, because, in most cases, they have the responsibility of taking care of their family’s diet, whether buying, choosing or preparing food22, thereby consuming more seeds, such as those that are sources of omega 3, identified in this study, which bring more health benefits. For this reason, in addition to caring more for their health and carrying out periodic examinations more frequently, women aspire to a greater life expectancy23 and generally participate more in social groups24.

Flaxseed is a seed rich in omega 3 and has been studied for its benefits in reducing the risk of chronic diseases and its antioxidant, anticancer and hyperglycemic agents, and also due to its effect on estrogen levels, blocking the enzymes active in hormonal metabolism, in order to interfere with the growth of tumor cells25. Flaxseed is the most abundant plant source of omega 3 and has been associated with health, the prevention and treatment of heart disease, arthritis, inflammatory and autoimmune diseases and cancer25.

The data in Table 2 shows that there were no significant differences in the consumption of Omega 3 source foods based on age group. However, the results, according to Table 3, reveal that there is a significant difference in the consumption of fish (p=0.014) and nuts (p=0.004) by income, demonstrating the participants with income greater than or equal to R$1,576.00 consume more Omega 3 source foods.

According to Borges et al.26, the consumption of food by Brazilian families is influenced by income and prices. This was confirmed by the record of food purchases provided by the Family Budget Survey (POF 2008/2009), which identified that the health status of individuals is directly related to the inadequate quality of their diet and is directly influenced by social class, as the results found that the quality of health of people belonging to the highest social class is superior to that of the lower classes.

The study by Coelho, Aguiar and Fernandes27 assessed the impossibility of the lower social class of the population maintaining an adequate diet, following national proposals, such as the Food Guide for the Brazilian Population. Low-income families purchase less healthy foods, such as whole grains, skimmed milk and by-products, lean meats, fruits, vegetables, fish and nuts.

Fish and nuts contain notable amounts of omega 3 fatty acids and can provide a preventive action against the incidence of many diseases, including cardiovascular illnesses28. The American Heart Association suggests the consumption of 226.8g of fish twice a week29. The study by Rohrmann and Faeh28 found that people who eat nuts more than three times a week can prevent premature deaths from cardiovascular disease and cancer in comparison with non-consumers.

The study by Darmon et al.30, the objective of which was to explore the relationship between income and healthy eating and the impact of healthy food pricing policies on the expenditure on and nutritional quality of foods chosen by low- and middle-income women, showed that the amount of unhealthy products purchased by the low-income group was twice that of those purchased by women in the middle-income group. As such, low-income women had diets of low nutritional quality, compared to middle-income women who purchased food products with protective characteristics to the body, generating more health among their families.

As such, the regular consumption of omega 3 fatty acids contributes to a healthier diet and better quality of life, protecting older adults from cardiovascular, inflammatory and chronic diseases, fighting cancer, obesity and improving bone health, as it strengthens the brain metabolism28,30.

The limitations of the present study revolve around the need to undertake more detailed analyzes to expand the discussion, verifying the relationships between the consumption of Omega 3 source foods and the socio-demographic and nutritional profile of older adults participating in other social groups, showing that the consumption of these source foods generates a healthier nutritional status.

CONCLUSION

In accordance with the purpose of the study, the results showed that older women consume more Omega 3 source foods than men. One of the justifications for this is that, culturally, women were responsible for taking care of their family’s food and, consequently, became aware of the importance of consuming healthier products, such as oils, dark green vegetables, seeds, fish and nuts. Regular consumption of these products, which are rich in omega 3, generates a better quality of life for the general population and especially for older adults. In addition, it was found that people with greater purchasing power consume more expensive sources of omega 3 fatty acid and that the consumption of Omega 3 source foods did not differ significantly in relation to age, BMI, marital status and whether the individual lived alone or with others.

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No funding was received in relation to the present study.

Received: December 09, 2019; Accepted: March 27, 2020

Correspondence Nadir Antonio Pichler nadirp@upf.br

The authors declare there are no conflicts of interest in relation to the present study.

Edited by:

Ana Carolina Lima Cavaletti

Creative Commons License This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License