Children, Omega 3 and the healthy development of our kids. Our kids need fish oil for brain development, and more.

The benefits of increasing our intake of omega 3 essential fatty acids are well-established, for both adults and children. Omega 3 essential fatty acids are very important for a wide range of health reasons.

Omega 3 fats are found in fish oil. Kids, or at least their parents, need to ensure that there is an adequate supply of Omega3 fats in their diet. Lets examine the link between Omega 3 and children’s health.

A new Australian study from the University of Wollongong’s School of Health Sciences, undertaken by associate Professor Barbara Meyer, has found that most children do not eat enough fish and are deficient in the Omega 3 essential fatty acids DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) and EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) , both found primarily in fish oil. Professor Meyer has now submitted a paper for publication in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition publishing her findings.

These findings include that 3 year old children in Australia consumed, on average, just 47 milligrams of Omega 3 essential fats and 4 to 8 year olds just 55 milligrams. Her description of these intakes of Omega3 fats was that they were “desperately low”. And these figures represent less than 10 percent of the Australian National Heart Foundation recommended intake of 500 milligrams per day. She says that only 6 percent of Australian children are meeting the recommended dietary intake.

Clearly our kids should increase their intake of Omega 3. Kids can do this by increasing their intake of fish, as well as increasing their intake of some Omega 3 fortified foods. For example there are Omega 3 fortified eggs available, though they are sometimes hard to find.
Children and Omega 3

The best way to increase the dietary intake of Omega3 fats is from supplementation with fish oil. Kids can take fish oil supplements, though in some cases may struggle with the capsules, these often being too large for kids to take. The author of this article has children, and overcomes this problem by cutting the end off the capsule and pouring the fish oil into a teaspoon, and giving it to his children with their breakfast.

So let’s examine some more of the information provided by Professor Meyer about the importance of increasing the intake of the essential fatty acids in children. The essential fatty acids are important to a whole range of children’s health issues.

Firstly Professor Meyer suggests that children’s intake of Omega3 fats should begin during pregnancy, and that pregnant women should ensure they ate fish during pregnancy, though she warns about the problem of mercury contamination in fish. This can be overcome conveniently by supplementing the diet of pregnant women with high quality fish oil supplements, many of which (though not all) are adequately decontaminated and do not harbor nasty toxins like mercury, PCBs, pesticides and heavy metals routinely found in fish.

Professor Meyer also points out that the last trimester of pregnancy is extremely important to the growing fetus as this is the time when the fetus is developing its brain, and Omega 3 essential fats are highly important to brain development. And Professor Meyer also notes that the first 2 years of an infants life are equally important to brain development. However it is not just brain development that is benefited by an increased intake of fish oil. Children have other developmental requirements that are also benefited by an adequate level of Omega3 intake.

An inadequate level of intake of Omega 3 in children can place them, over time, at increased risk of asthma, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), retarded brain development, reduced development of the vision and even at the risk of heart disease, and more.

Clearly there are powerful reasons for us to ensure that our kids have sufficient dietary intake of fish oil. Kids, in our modern society, do not eat enough fish, if any, and this is placing their health and proper development at risk.

It is too late to start fatty acid supplementation when children are old enough to start taking Omega 3 capsules. As the author does, it is better to ensure, right from birth, that we are maximizing the chances of children’s brain development and better health in our children. Omega 3 can be conveniently given to them merely by removing the oil from the capsule and sprinkling it on their breakfast. They don’t even know it is there.

Of course it is quite possible to increase children’s intake of fish. However there are some issues with this. The obvious one is mercury contamination of fish, as previously mentioned, and for this reason the FDA recommends that we limit our intake of fish. Pregnant women should be especially careful, and some cans of salmon carry warnings about intake by pregnant women.

Secondly, in the author’s experience, it can be particularly difficult to convince young children to eat fish. Of course fish can be disguised in food however it is difficult to ensure an adequate intake of fish every week in this way.

The best way to ensure an adequate level of intake of omega 3 in children is supplementation. That is why the author supplements the diet of his own children with fish oil.

It is also important to understand that there are big differences between the various Omega 3 capsules available on the market. There are differences in the amount of DHA, (the most important of the omega 3 fatty acids) found in most capsules. Some capsules have way more DHA than others, and for this reason it is very difficult to compare the price of the different Omega 3 capsules available, because one capsule cannot adequately be compared with another.

There are also issues to consider about the effectiveness of the fish oil in the capsules, and in particular its freshness, as many Omega 3 supplements use stale fish oil. Fish oil can oxidise very quickly, and this causes the often so called “fishy burps” that some people experience, and this can put children off taking the capsules if they are taking capsules.

As you can see there are powerful reasons to increase the intake of the essential fatty acids in children. Omega 3 essential fatty acids are important to our health from conception right through to our old age. And although this study focused on Australian children there is no doubt that American children are also equally deficient in the essential fatty acids known as omega 3. Kids need their good fats just like the rest of us.

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