Why omega-3 oils are important for kids.
Do your children love fish? If they do, and they eat fish regularly, they’re probably getting enough of an important nutrient—omega-3s. But if they don’t, it’s important to know why they should and how you can make that happen. Omega-3 fatty acids are a powerful and essential component of healthy development in children.
What are omega-3s?
Omega-3 fatty acids are one of the two major classes of polyunsaturated fatty acids, or PUFAs. Omega-3s exist in many different forms, but most of the research is focused on:
- ALA—alpha-linolenic acid—found in plant oils such as flaxseed, soybean, and canola.
- EPA—eicosapentaenoic acid—in fish and their oils as well as krill oils.
- DHA—docosahexaenoic acid—also present in fish and krill oils.
Our bodies produce limited amounts of EPA and DHA; these are considered essential fatty acids (EFAs). The most practical method of obtaining EFAs is directly through our diets and/or dietary supplements.
Why are omega-3s important?
Omega-3s provide many benefits to both children and adults. They provide our bodies with energy and support healthy cardiovascular, pulmonary, immune, and endocrine function. DHA, in particular, is found in abundance in our brains and retinas.
These healthy fats are particularly important for development both in the womb and throughout childhood. EPA and DHA are thought to help promote healthy mood balance and support the growth of the brain, eyes, and nerves of children up to 12 years of age.
So how can parents increase their children’s intake of omega-3s?
The main source of the omega-3 fatty acids DHA and EPA are fish oils. Algae-sourced DHA is now available as well, for those who prefer to avoid fish. Supplemental omega-3 fatty acids are available in your local health food store as capsules, chewable soft gels, or bottled liquids. The liquid forms are now often available in combination with vitamin D3.
Omega-3s may help ADHD symptoms
In the search for natural interventions in the treatment of ADHD, much interest has been focused on the use of essential fatty acids (EFAs). Of most interest have been docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA).
After discovering, through research, that many of those diagnosed with ADHD also had deficiencies and imbalances of EFAs during their developmental years, researchers turned to the role of EFA supplementation in treating symptoms of ADHD.
A large, multifaceted systematic review of the effect of EFA supplementation on ADHD symptoms was published in late 2017. The review investigated the outcomes of 25 randomized, controlled trials examining the effect of combined EPA and DHA supplementation. They discovered that those trials that included a longer trial period found the best outcomes in ADHD symptom improvement.