The Benefits of Fish Oils For Children
Parents are bombarded with healthy eating advice, from how much fruit and veg to eat to which type of bread is best for lunchbox sandwiches. Even the most savvy parent cannot keep up with it all – especially when the advice seems to change by the week.
One piece of advice, however, that looks as if it is a good one to stick to is to make sure your growing children are taking in fish oils to help with their concentration, behaviour and learning development. Some studies have shown some pretty dramatic results when fish oils have been given to children with learning difficulties including dyslexia, dyspraxia and ADHD – even adults have reported benefits from taking fish oils when coping with conditions like depression and schizophrenia. People with arthritis often take fish oil as well.
Another recent study found that young children who took regular doses of fish oils enjoyed dramatically improved performances at school. In fact, the vast majority of mixed ability children taking part in a UK trial showed improvements in their reading, writing and numeracy work after taking the supplements for several months.
The main ingredient of fish oils is Omega-3 fatty acids, specifically EPA and DHA, which the body cannot make on its own. Other good sources for this are oily fish, such as salmon, sardines, mackerel and tuna, as well as some plant oils, nuts, seeds and dark leafy vegetables.
These foods are also beneficial in pregnancy; although mothers-to-be should seek medical advice regarding safe amounts of oily fish to eat as they can contain environmental pollutants that can then build up in the body if eaten to excess. Some fish oil supplements, are not suitable for pregnant ladies either, e.g. those made from the livers of fish, such as cod liver oil. Making sure a pregnancy diet includes just two portions of oily fish per week should provide safe and adequate exposure to these vital fatty acids.
Of course, the next question on any parent’s tongue will be, “just how do I get my child to eat oily fish, dark leafy vegetables and seeds?” This is certainly tricky for fussy young eaters, which is where fish oil supplements could well come in. There are a wide range of supplements available for sale and it can be a bewildering choice.
It is always wise to talk to your child’s doctor before starting them on fish oil supplements. They will be able to advise on the type of supplement, dosage, effects on allergies and other health conditions etc. Ingesting too many fish oil supplements should not cause serious problems to a child, but they can cause tummy upsets, so due care must be taken at all times to supervise their consumption and to keep packets and bottles well out of sight and reach of younger children.
Many children do not like the taste of oily supplements and there are versions out there that are sweetened to counter this complaint. Look out for those that have been sweetened by xylitol or mannitol, as these are two of the better sweetening options for the teeth. Or plan plenty of family meals involving ingredients high in Omega-3 for an even simpler way to boost your children’s brain power and concentration.