Guide to Using Fish Oil for Kids
So what are the reasons for using fish oil for kids and which is the best kind to give to your child?
Fish oils are an excellent source of omega 3 fatty acids. These fats are also called essential fatty acids because your body can’t make them so you need to get them from your diet.
You can get these healthy fats from foods such as fatty fish, walnuts and flax seeds…or you can use nutritional supplements such as fish oils.
The best fish oil for children should provide the healthy fats, docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic (EPA).
These fatty acids can play an important role in your child’s development because they form the framework of cells of the central nervous system and are essential for healthy brain development.
EPA and DHA also help reduce inflammation, lower your risk for heart disease and may even affect your mood. In fact, a recent study in the June 2006 issue of The American Journal of Psychiatry found low omega 3 levels led to an increased risk for mood disorders.
How Fish Oils Benefit Your Child’s Health
There are several studies showing EPA and DHA can gave a profound effect on a child’s development; particularly in areas of learning and behavior.
1. Lower Risk for Asthma and Allergies:
- Research on taking fish oil during pregnancy indicates that fatty acids may improve your baby’s visual acuity, reduce the risk for allergies and enhance neurological function.
- A study in the November 2001 European Respiratory Journal showed asthmatic children given fish oil capsules providing 84 mg. EPA and 36 mg. DHA experienced decreased asthma symptoms.
2. Reduce Symptoms of ADHD:
- Did you know that some children with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorders (ADHD) are may show low levels of omega 3 levels in their blood? Scientists using fish oils on ADHD found the increase of omega 3 may reduce some symptoms of ADHD; including less hyperactivity and increased attention spans.
3. Improve Language and Learning Skills:
- Fish oils may even improve learning skills in some children. A recent study published in the January/February 2005 issue of Autism-Asperger’s Digest found fish oils improved language and reading skills in 18 autistic children ranging in age from 3 to 10 years of age.
- The Oxford Durham Fish Oil Study published in the May 2005 issue of Pediatrics Journal showed children with Developmental Coordination Disorder improved in reading, spelling and behavior when given omega 3 supplements after a 3 month period.
Side Effects from Using Fish Oil for Kids
So are fish oils for kids really safe?
Research indicates that the most common fish oil side effect was gastrointestinal (diarrhea).
This side effect was reported in less than 7% of all studies and stopping the use of fish oil resolved this side effect.
Overall, the research shows that fish oil for children are generally safe as long as your child is not allergic to fish, doesn’t have a bleeding disorder or is taking anti-coagulation medication.
If you’re concerned about mercury and PCB’s from eating store-bought fish, you could use a pharmaceutical-grade fish oil.
These high quality products are generally free of mercury, PCB’s, and other contaminants due to the extremely high purification methods used to create them.
Choosing the Right Fish Oil for Kids
So based on all the positive research, you may be looking for the best fish oil for children. Luckily, you can now get fish oils specially made for kids.
Many of these products are formulated to give a lower dosage of omega 3 fatty acids and come in a variety of flavors, such as lemon, peach and strawberry.
Child-friendly fish oils can come in chew-able soft gels as well as the popular liquid oils. Many of the popular brands offer different dosage amounts with variations in omega 3 concentration and ingredients.
Carlson Laboratories – Kids Very Finest Fish Oil is a lemon-flavored fish oil for kids that come in a 200 ml bottle.
One-half teaspoon provides 250 mg. of DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) and 400 mg. of EPA (eicosahexaenoic acid).
Carlson Labs fish oils are regularly tested (using AOAC international protocols) for freshness, potency and purity by an independent, FDA-registered laboratory. This is a purified oil free of mercury, cadmium, lead, PCB’s and 28 other contaminants. I’ve seen retail prices range from $20 to $28 a bottle.
Health From The Sun – A+ Kids Pure Fish Oil comes in a tutti-fruity flavour packaged in a 4 ounce glass bottle.
Each 1/2 teaspoon provides 187 mg. of DHA and 125 mg. of EPA and is tested for purity and contaminants – including PCB’s, heavy metals, dioxins and pesticides. Suggested List Price: $15.99
Health from the Sun also offers DHA Soft Chews for Children that provide 160 mg. of DHA and 40 mg. of EPA. Manufacturer’s Suggested List Price: $12.99
Nutra Sea Kids by Ascenta is a fish oil for kids that comes as a berry flavored omega 3 supplement. It provides 320 mg. EPA, 200 mg. DHA, 50 mg. of Gamma Linolenic Acid (omega 6), vitamin E, green tea extract and vitamin D3 per 1/2 teaspoon.
These products are molecularly-distilled and third-party tested for purity, quality and label claims.
Each 200 ml. bottle provides 40 servings. Manufacturer’s Suggested List Price: $21.99
Barlean’s Organic Oils Kid’s Omega Swirl Fish Oil is a lemon-flavored, purified fish oil providing 360 mg. of EPA and DHA, 50 mg. of linolenic acid and 345 mg. of oleic acid.
Made from salmon and/or cod liver oil and sweetened with Xylitol. Comes in an 8 ounce bottle that provides 43 teaspoon servings.
Barleans claims this fish oil is 90% more bio-available than traditional fish oils due to a smaller fish oil molecule; however, there is no documented research to support this claim. Suggested List Price: $27.98
Nordic Naturals Children’s DHA Soft gels are strawberry-flavored omega 3 supplements.
Made from purified arctic cod liver oil, four (4) soft gels provide 82 mg. EPA, 125 mg. DHA, 130 mg. Oleic Acid (omega 9), 130 – 300 iu Vitamin A and 1 – 4 iu Vitamin D.
The soft gels are made of gelatin, water, glycerin and strawberry essence. Product does not contain gluten, milk derivatives or artificial colors or flavorings.
Each bottle contains 90 soft gels in a smaller soft gel size of 250 mg. Suggested List Price: $42.95
The above products are a small sample of the variety of fish oils for children. The ingredient and dosage amounts are based on the suggested serving size listed on each product’s ingredient label.
Unfortunately, there are currently no studies looking at optimal dosages of fish oil for kids, but there is information available on optimal fish oil dosages for adults and pregnant women.
As parents, we only want what’s best for our children’s health. Using a pharmaceutical-grade fish oil for kids will help ensure your child receives the benefits from this healthy oil for their growing minds and bodies.
Fish Oil for Children Research References:
Dietary Omega 3 fatty acids and brain development. Journal of Nutrition. 2007 April;137(4):855-9.
Effects of an open-label pilot study with high-dose EPA/DHA concentrates on plasma phospholipids and behavior in children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Nutrition Journal. 2007 Jul. 13;6:16.
A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial of docosahexaenoic acid supplementation in children with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder. Journal of Pediatrics. 2001 Aug. 139(2):189-96
Omega-3 long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids in older children. Journal of Pediatrics. 2007 May;150(5):457-9