Omega-3 is an essential nutrient that has many critical benefits for chronic diseases that are related to the inflammatory process. Omega 3 benefits for children are vital for they have a hand right from the fetal stage. DHA is important for the very architecture of the fetal brain. Hence, consumption of omega-3 rich foods and supplements – especially DHA and EPA – has short and long term consequences on the life of a child. The best source for EPA and DHA comes from seafood – especially krill oil and purified fish oil supplements.
Omega 3 Benefits during Pregnancy
Omega 3 benefits for children starts right from pregnancy for what mom eats affects her unborn child too. If omega-3 is so critical for a baby’s development, then the first source must come from the umbilical cord. A healthy pregnancy and carrying a baby to term are influence by eicosanoids. Low consumption of seafood during pregnancy can lead to preterm labor and premature babies.
Benefits to the Fetus : Brain cells are like a young plant that needs nourishment. Fetal brain cells fed the right amounts of omega-3 have mature brain development. Mothers who had high levels of DHA had babies with better sleep patterns that reflected a mature brain development. It is critical to balance omega-3 and omega-6. If not, sleep patterns in infants can be disturbed.
Genes in the brain are turned on and off by omega-3. Genes help to make protein and the turning off and on of these genes results in the manufacturing process starting or stopping. Some studies have found that omega-3 consumed during perinatal stages by the mother can influence gene expression later in life.
Breast Cancer : Girls of mothers on omega-3 during pregnancy had lesser risk of developing breast cancer tumors as against mothers high on omega-6.
Fights Asthma and Allergies : Pregnant women susceptible to hay fever, asthma and other allergies when they consumed omega-3 had kids less at risk of developing these and other allergies. Teenagers whose mothers took fish oil when pregnant were at lesser risk of contracting asthma. Omega-3 has excellent anti-inflammatory properties and this helps to reduced blockages in airways that cause asthma. However, more research is needed in omega-3 effects as a long term asthma treatment.
One study of 29 children found that those on fish oil supplements for 10 months had fewer asthma symptoms than kids on a placebo. Most studies however have found no effect.
Blood Pressure : While hypertension is rare in young children, it is possible for them to develop it later in life if their mothers were deficient in omega-3.
Preterm Labor : Women were more likely to carry their baby to full term and not have premature babies when they age omega-3 enriched eggs.
Omega 3 Benefits in the First Year
Omega 3 benefits for children are significant especially when they are breastfed during their fist year by mothers on omega-3 supplements. Some benefits include:
- They show few symptoms of obesity, hypertension, insulin resistance, diabetes, asthma and heart problems
- SIDS can be linked to DHA deficiency in the brain.
- Boosts brain development like synapse formation, improved neuroplasticity of the baby’s brain cells, improved learning, language, visual and memory development.
- Babies showed sustained attention, good hand-eye coordination and displayed good movements of healthy babies.
Omega-3 Benefits in Developmental and Learning Disorders in Children
Omega 3 benefits for children are of vital importance for a deficiency can lead to several learn and developmental disorders as seen here.
Omega 3 Benefits in Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) : ADHD affects millions of children and adults worldwide. The benefits of krill oil (a good source of Omega 3) for both attention deficit / hyperactivity disorders (ADD/ADHD) have been known since 2006. Nutrition is a key factor in combating ADHD and ADD. Food choices of children are extremely poor and most live on a high-processed diet full of omega-6 fats. Clinical studies have found that children who have been given krill oil (thus a balanced Omega 3 diet) supplements for 13 weeks showed improvement in their ADHD symptoms.
A clinical study of 100 boys found that those with greater behavioral and learning problems like sleep disturbances and temper tantrums had lower omega-3 levels in their body.
A large clinical study conducted at the University of South Australia studied kids aged 7-12 who displayed symptoms of ADHD. During the 1st half of the test, the kids were split into 3 groups – the first only on omega-3 supplements, the 2nd on omega-3 and multivitamins and the third on a placebo. In the 2nd half of the study, all the kids were given omega-3 and multivitamins. At the end of the study, the group on omega-3 from the beginning showed fewer ADHD behavioral symptoms. The placebo group showed improved signs after switching to omega-3.
Omega 3 Helps in proper Cognitive Development : studies conducted on cognitive development of infants found that those fed formulas rich in DHA had better attention span, hand-eye coordination, intelligence test scores, language, communication and social skills. Pregnant women who were on omega-3 supplements – mainly DHA and EPA – and continued this when breastfeeding had kids who performed better on cognitive tests at the age of 4 compared to kids born to mothers who did not.
Autism: A small study has found that children with autism had high omega-6 levels and low omega-3 – EPA. When given fish oil supplements for 6 months parents reported improved sleep patterns, cognitive skills, reduced hyperactivity etc. Much more study is required in this field.
Proper Growth: Premature infants given omega-3 enriched formula had good brain development, memory and growth.
Helps in Fighting Depression: A small study found fish oil can alleviate symptoms of depression in 6-12 year olds.
Dyspraxia or developmental coordination disorder in kids improved with omega-3 given over a 3-month period.
Dyslexia symptoms in kids of normal intellect that causes difficulty in reading and writing can improve.
Omega 3 benefits for children are critical as seen here. Although many studies are in the nascent stage, the right quantities of DHA and EPA provides several health benefits like brain and cognitive development and reduced symptoms of many serious developmental and growth disorders in children.