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Should Kids Take Omega-3 Supplements?

by Matt Weik, BS, CSCS, CPT, CSN

Here’s the million-dollar question of the day: What will your kid choose when given a choice between junk food and healthy food? I’m willing to bet that most kids are selecting junk. So, why would I write an article about whether or not kids should take omega-3 supplements? It’s a simple answer — for the parents and kids who actually care about their health.

I know what you’re thinking. Omega-3 supplements for kids? What about a simple multivitamin? My answer would be they should already be taking a kids multivitamin, and if you’re hearing this for the first time, you’re already behind the eight ball.

Most people are aware of the benefits of vitamins A, B, C, D, and more, but do you know about omega-3 fatty acids? Yes, it is fat — but a healthy fat that is an essential nutrient for kids and their overall health and development.

From improving brain development and reducing inflammation to promoting the overall growth of a child, omega-3 can be an excellent addition to your kid’s diet.

Let’s take a deeper dive into this powerful source of healthy fat and how it can help your kids stay healthy.

What Are Omega-3 Fatty Acids?

Omega-3 fatty acids are a group of polyunsaturated fats that are essential for growth and development. They are fatty acids because your body cannot produce them naturally, so it is important to obtain them from food.

They consist of EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid), DHA (docosahexaenoic acid), and ALA (alpha-linolenic acid). ALA is mainly found in flaxseed, chia seeds, walnuts, and more, whereas DHA and EPA are primarily present in oily and fatty fish like tuna, salmon, and others.

If your child does not like eating any of the above, there are various omega-3 supplements available, however, the most common ones are fish oil, algae oil, and krill oil.

Next, let’s take a look at some of the health benefits of omega-3s and omega-3 supplements for kids.

The Health Benefits of Omega-3s for Kids

Should kids take omega-3 supplements to take in more healthy fatty acids? Below are some of the many benefits kids may achieve through the use of omega-3 supplements.

1.      Relieve the symptoms of asthma

From children to adults, asthma is a chronic condition that can actually affect anyone. The symptoms include chest pain, breathing difficulty, and coughing.

Omega-3 fatty acids help to ease these symptoms. As per a study, consuming fish oil capsules (120 mg of DHA and EPA) daily helps to reduce the symptoms of asthma.

Another study shows that a higher intake of omega-3 fatty acids helps to relieve the symptoms of asthma caused due to indoor air pollution.

2.      Improve brain health

When it comes to a child’s brain development, omega-3 fatty acids can do wonders. It is an essential building block for the nervous system and brain. Research shows that omega-3 fatty acids can improve mood and brain function in children.

A 6-month study showed that children who ate a diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids experienced improved memory and verbal learning ability. Another study showed that omega-3 supplements helped in improving anti-social and aggressive behavior.

Moreover, various studies suggest that omega-3 can help prevent mood disorders and depression in children.

3.      Promote better sleep

Did you know that 4% of children less than 18 years of age are affected by sleep disorders? And if lack of proper sleep affects the growth process of children.

Omega-3 fatty acids can help with this! As per a study, supplementing with 600 mg of DHA for around 16 weeks was shown to help reduce sleep interruptions and promote overall better sleep.

Moreover, consuming more omega-3 fatty acids during pregnancy improves the sleep pattern in kids.

Recommended Dose of Omega-3 Supplements for Kids

The daily dose of omega-3 completely depends upon gender and age. Only ALA has specific guidelines for dosage. Here is the daily intake of ALA in children:

  • 0-12 months – 0.5g
  • 1-3 years – 0.7g
  • 4-8 years – 0.9g
  • 9-13 years – 1g (girls) and 1.2g (boys)
  • 14-18 years – 1.1g (girls) and 1.6g (boys)

Try adding nuts, seeds, fatty fish, and more to your child’s diet so that they can take in some omega-3 fatty acids. If your child doesn’t eat any of those items, then you can consider omega-3 supplements for kids.

As per studies, 120-1300 mg of DHA and EPA per day is good for children.

Are there Any Side Effects?

Though the side effects of omega-3 supplements are mild, they can include headache, heartburn, bad breath, nausea, diarrhea, and more.

The best way to avoid the side effects is to stick to the recommended dosage. Start with a small quantity and then increase slowly depending on the tolerance level.

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