Kerryn Boogaard Kerryn Boogaard
Beverly Goldsmith Beverly Goldsmith
Zoe Bingley-Pullin Zoe Bingley-Pullin

The importance of omega for healthy children:

Essential fatty acids, such as omega-3, are the nutritional cornerstones of health.
By Warren Maginn
Date: June 20 2013
Editor Rating:

All parents want their children to do well in school. Most parents know that good nutrition plays a foundational role in academic success. Some may even prepare extra nutritious foods during the school year to support their child’s learning.

However, the basic need to obtain omega-3 essential fatty acids on a daily basis is still one of the most overlooked, yet important, pieces of nutritional support required to help provide children with the health and wellness they need to excel in school all year long.

Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) is a particularly important omega-3 that is required for optimal brain health, but it cannot be produced by the body. Therefore, it must be obtained through diet or dietary supplements.

DHA is essential to normal brain function, supporting membrane fluidity, eicosanoid development and activity, and memory and learning. Published clinical trials suggest that DHA is beneficial for normal mood and behaviour. It is consistently associated with higher cognitive performance in infants, toddlers, and children, as observed by improvements in intelligence scores.

According to a recent study by Oxford University, daily omega-3 supplements improved the reading and behaviour of underperforming children in mainstream primary schools.

Healthy but underperforming children aged between 7 and 9 were given a daily DHA supplement for 16 weeks. Reading was significantly improved in the children who were initially the poorest readers in the group. In addition, parents of these lower-performing children also reported an overall improvement in behaviour.

DHA is also good for pregnant mothers and helps support brain and visual development and function, especially during prenatal development, in growing babies.

Just recently, a study was released in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition which found that pregnant women taking DHA are less likely to give birth early and their babies score higher in some health parameters compared to women who did not take the supplement.

Even with the vast amount of information reported in the media and on the internet, there are still many people who have questions about how to choose a high-quality fish oil supplement.

When choosing a fish oil you may ask yourself ‘will my kid eat it?’, ‘will they like the taste’, ‘how do I know it is a good quality supplement?’ These questions are important, as every mum wants the best for her child and choosing a safe and effective fish oil is no different, especially since not all fish oils are created equal.

Helpful tips on choosing the right fish oil:

1.    Purity

This is the first priority when it comes to choosing a safe fish oil for children. Toxic metals such as Mercury and Lead, as well as chemical pollutants such as Dioxins and PCBs, are valid concerns when it comes to ocean-sourced food items. Parents should look for products that begin with wild-caught fish from healthy fisheries. Oxygen-free processing is critical to protect oils from rancidity. Molecular distillation efficiently purifies the oils. Ultimately, it is imperative to choose a product that has been shown to more than simply meet, but rather well exceed, internationally-accepted purity standards such as those of the CRN (Council for Responsible Nutrition), WHO (World Health Organisation) and IFOS (International Fish Oil Standards).

2.    Freshness

This is the key to an effective fish oil.Rancid oil is not healthy for the body, and will not only have reduced benefit, but can also create increased oxidative stress in the body. With all the awareness around antioxidants and their benefits to health these days, it would be incredibly counterproductive to add a further oxidative burden to the body through our fish oil supplements. The hallmarks of a rancid fish oil to look out for are a strong fishy smell, taste and burps (yes, a fresh fish oil should NOT have a strong smell and should digest no differently to a spoon of olive oil). So look for a reputable product that has conducted independent testing to ensure their oil has a TOTOX value (total measure of oxidation) below at least 26 mEq/kg. You might be surprised to see how few manufacturers achieve this and how many children will finally accept their fish oil when given one of sufficient quality.

3.    Solid science

An effective omega-3 supplement should be supported by scientific testing. Look for the evidence. Any responsible fish oil manufacturer should commission an independent testing organisation (who does not benefit financially from the test results) to test their product and let it stand by the results. With so many variances between products these days, this is your best way of ensuring that the benefits found in the research can be expected from the product that you choose.

4.    Great taste and easy to take

Parents know how picky kids can be. With children’s omega-3s, taste is paramount. Look for natural flavoring that makes products palatable for children, as well as liquids, chewable soft gels, and gummies children will find easy to take. 

5.    Sustainable supply

Look for environmental sustainability with regards to ethical fishing practices, a strong social responsibility policy and respect from the medical and health professional community. This will ensure you have found a product you can trust to look after your family, and our oceans, well into the future. 


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