Omega-3 is an essential fat meaning your body cannot produce it and you must get it from your diet. Once consumed, omega-3 is broken down into eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). Reports have estimated over half our population is deficient in omega-3. Children, especially fussy eaters, may be at particular risk. Studies suggest babies born to a mother with high omega-3 levels will more likely have advanced cognitive faculties and increased attention spans. Research also shows that EPA and DHA from fish oil help improved visual acuity, behavioural development, immune system function, and asthma symptoms.
Omega-3 for Pregnancy and Breastfeeding
Omega-3 fatty acids are required nutrients for prenatal development. Pregnant woman should consume enough omega-3 fatty acids for both her and the baby. Transfer of DHA from mom to baby is greatest in the third trimester when your baby’s brain grows at a rapid pace. It’s also important during lactation because DHA content of a baby’s brain triples during the first three months of life!
The benefits of Omega-3 fatty acids during pregnancy and lactation:
- Neurological development.
- Development of cardiac and respiratory systems.
- Development of visual centres.
- Increase learning and cognitive function.
- Increase attention span.
- May reducing chances of toxemia or pre-eclampsia.
- May help prevent pre-term labour and premature delivery.
- May help reduce risk of postpartum depression.
Omega-3 and Children
The benefits of Omega-3 fatty acids for children:
- DHA boosts intelligence.
- Research has linked low levels of DHA with ADD.
- Improved cognitive function and lowered behavioral problems for children with ADHD.
- Better response to mental stress and less aggression.
As a parent, how do you get omega-3 fats into your child’s diet and how much do they need? Children can get omega-3 from fatty cold-water fish such as mackerel, salmon, trout, and sardines. High-quality fish oils in liquid or capsule form is the best approach especially for parents with fussy eaters. Similar to consuming fish and possible toxins, the safety of fish oils has also been scrutinized. Many studies have proven the toxicity from fish oil supplements is lower than fish.
Recommended Daily Omega-3 Intake
Health Canada’s guidelines on daily fish oil consumption:
- 0 to 12 months 500 mg
- 1 year 600 mg
- 2 to 3 years 700 mg
- 4 to 6 years 1,000 mg
- 7 to 9 years 1,200 mg for boys/ 1,000 mg for girls
- 10 to 12 years 1,400 mg for boys/ 1,200 mg for girls
- 13 to 15 years 1,500 mg for boys/ 1,200 mg for girls
Depending on your child’s health, your healthcare provider may or may not recommend more.