A SCOTTISH family is spearheading the launch of a UK-wide bid aimed at improving the health of the nation's hearts by encouraging people to include more Omega-3 in their diets.

Steve and Charlotte Aitchison and their children Arran, eight, Rose, six, and three-year-old Harris will take part in the Healthy Happy Hearts challenge, which will test how much Omega-3 fatty acids they consume over six weeks.

The Edinburgh household's involvement comes as studies suggest people are missing out on vital Omega-3 fatty acids that are found in oil rich fish and are essential to heart health.

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Found in various concentrations in many different kinds of seafood, marine Omega-3 fatty acid is not only beneficial for health, but an essential dietary requirement.

It has been associated with brain development, joint function, healthy skin and eyes as well as better mental health.

Most people in the UK have about 25% Omega-3 in their blood, but more than 50% is the ideal level.

The Aitchisons will follow a specially created lifestyle and eating plan and will have their Omega-3 levels measured at the start and end of the challenge.

Charlotte, 39, said: "As a stay-at-home mum, I'm always on my feet, so I'm really looking forward to seeing how eating more fish makes me feel fitter, healthier and full of energy.

"I also can't wait to experience different types of fish and to learn from the experts how to prepare and cook delicious seafood dishes that the whole family will enjoy. It's not an easy task with three small, sometimes picky, children."

Steve, 36, said working away from home meant having a healthy meal could be sometimes be challenging.

He said: "I hope the Healthy Happy Hearts programme will help me make better food choices on the go.

"I'm also running the Edinburgh Marathon later this year, so it would be ideal if the initiative also helps to give me the booster I need for personal fitness. I'd love to beat my personal best."

The programme, which is being delivered by Seafish, the pan-industry body that services all parts of the seafood industry, has been designed by expert nutritionists at Queen Margaret University College.

Dietitian and senior lecturer Dr Jane McKenzie said: "Many people will be surprised at just how easy it is to make the diet and lifestyle changes that could improve the balance of Omega-3 and make a significant difference to their health.

"Whether you're a stay-at-home mum, a busy working parent, a high-profile leader or an elite sportsperson, having the right Omega-3 to Omega-6 balance is essential for your body and is known to prevent heart health issues like heart attacks.

"We hope the Aitchisons' experience will be a good reality check for people to eat healthily or to reinforce their informed food choices that support a healthy active lifestyle."

The family's experiences will be shared on the website www.fishisthedish.co.uk.