Are you unsure if your child needs omega-3 supplements and if they are safe to take? In this article we want to tell you all you need to know about giving your child omega-3 supplements, why they should take them and how high the recommended daily amount is.
Omega-3 fatty acids are a specific type of fat, that are essential for our health or well-being. There are various different ones, but the most important ones are eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). These two long-chain fatty acids are important for growth and development and are associated with a variety of health benefits. EPA and DHA are essential fats, which means that our body cannot produce them itself, but we rely on consuming them through food. EPA and DHA occur in a variety of seafood and fish, especially in fatty cold-water fish like salmon or anchovies.
Why taking a fish oil or krill oil supplement
But the reality is, that most adults and children do not consume sufficient amounts of seafood or other foods with high amounts of omega-3 fatty acids, to reach the recommended daily dose! A study from the US that surveyed the nutritional intakes from children up to elderly people from 2003 to 2014, shows that all demographic groups were deficient in omega-3.
An option to easily increase your intake of omega-3 is to start taking a high-quality fish oil or krill oil supplement, that contain EPA and DHA in high concentrations.
When it comes to children, they can also take supplement on a daily basis, which can bring them many health benefits. The regular intake of omega-3 is important even before they are born, since these fats are important for fetal development, brain function, heart health and our immune system.
This is why it is important, that pregnant women also consider taking an omega-3 supplement during pregnancy and later on during breastfeeding.
Why your child needs omega-3
Now that you know what omega-3 fatty acids are, here is why your child needs them: They are essential for the normal functioning of our brain and keep it healthy. EPA and DHA are important for the proper development of the central nervous and cardiovascular systems and are also important for eye function.
Over 60 % of our brain is made of fats, 10 to 15 % of which are DHA, one of the two omega-3 fatty acids we mentioned above. DHA is an important building block of the cell membranes of our brain cells, which means that it can influence the membrane fluidity of the cells and the communication between the cells. In their function as neurotransmitters, the omega-3 fatty acids therefore may also influence some psychological behavioural conditions.
When your child needs omega-3
The brain goes through its biggest growth spurt from the time between birth to the second year of life. But the development does not stop there, but keeps going throughout childhood and adolescence.
So, the intake of DHA is especially crucial during pregnancy, when the brain first forms, and during the early stages of childhood. This is when DHA influences the function and development of the brain and eyes. Studies show that omega-3 can also be beneficial for the immune system and help to protect it from developing allergies in early childhood.
Omega-3 supplements are safe to take at any age, but you should always consider asking a medical professional before you start taking any supplements, or before you give any to your children.
While the main neurological development takes place in the first few years of live, there are other health benefits of taking omega-3 supplements during school years as well for example. Let’s look at those in more detail.
Like we mentioned above, omega-3 fatty acids play an important role in brain development and brain function, particularly learning and memory. It has been suggested that increasing the intake of omega-3 could improve performance at school.
So, here is a short list of some health benefits of omega-3 supplements for your child:
Helps with better sleep
A study showed that taking omega-3 fatty acids can decrease sleep interruptions and even increase the total duration of sleep each night. Some of this might be due to the effect of omega-3 on blood pressure, as this study also concluded, that the risk of having sleep problems may be linked to low blood pressure in kids.
Can relieve symptoms of Asthma
Children suffering from asthma may experience chest pain, breathing difficulties, coughing and wheezing. There are several studies showing a possible positive impact of daily supplements of fish oil on different symptoms.
Some studies also show that there is a possible link between omega-3 fatty acids and the reduced overall risk of asthma in children.
May reduce symptoms of ADHD
Children with Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) might benefit even more from taking omega-3 supplements, as some research suggests that these kinds of supplements may help to decrease ADHD symptoms.
The daily intake of omega-3 fatty acids has been shown to have a positive effect on memory, attention, learning, impulsivity and hyperactivity, all of are affected by ADHD. A large review of 52 studies also found, that dietary modifications and daily supplementation with fish oil were two of the most promising techniques to reduce certain symptoms of ADHD in kids
Brain health and development
There is more and more research done on the effects of omega-3 fatty acids on the brains of infants and children. Some of these studies suggest, that EPA and DHA may improve brain functions like learning, memory and brain development in children.
DHA is the dominant omega-3 in the brain and is a major component of the cell membrane of our brain cells. Its presence or absence therefore influences various neurological pathways and processes. This paper shows, that the consumption of DHA in particular, may enhance cognitive performance related to learning, cognitive development, memory and the speed of performing cognitive tasks.
The recommended daily intake of EPA and DHA depends on a few different factors. Things like age, gender and body weight can determine how much omega-3 your child needs every day.
The World Health Organisation recommends the following amounts of combined EPA and DHA per day
- 6 to 24 months of age: 10 to 12 mg of DHA per kg of bodyweight
- 2 to 4 years of age: 100 to 150 mg of combined EPA and DHA per day
- 4 to 6 years of age: 150 to 200 mg of combined EPA and DHA per day
- 6 to 10 years of age: 200 to 250 mg of combined EPA and DHA per day
- 10 to 18 years of age: 250 to 2000 mg of combined EPA and DHA per day
How many capsules or ml of supplement your child needs will depend greatly on the concentration and quality of the supplement you use. Just because a capsule contains 50 mg of fish oil does not mean it contains 50 mg of EPA and DHA as they are often other substances in the fish oil, too. It is important to read the small print and check for the concentration of EPA and DHA in the supplement, to then calculate the actual amount of combined EPA and DHA that one capsule contains.
Are there any side effects?
The side effects of taking fish oil or krill oil capsules on a daily basis are minimal. Unless you are allergic to fish or seafood, in which case these supplements can cause an allergic reaction.
Some potential side effects of taking marine based omega-3 supplements are generally mild and can include bad breath, unpleasant aftertaste, headache and heartburn, an upset stomach, diarrhoea or nausea.
Make sure to stick to the recommended dosage to reduce the risk of side effects, and you can also start on a lower dose and gradually increase it, to build up tolerance.
Omega-3 supplements like fish oil and krill oil have many health benefits for your child, no matter their age!
Some of the most prominent health benefits are
- May improve sleep
- May reduce the symptoms of asthma
- May appease symptoms of ADHD
- Supports healthy brain development
The daily dose your child can take depends on a few different factors, so it might be worth checking in with a health professional before you buy any supplements.
But whatever the amount of capsules your child can take, you will start to notice the benefits after a few months of taking them, so consistency is key!
In our Shop you can find a wide variety of high quality fish oil and krill oil products, either in individual pouches or in a subscription, so you never run out of fresh capsules!