Health Benefits of Fish Oil for Kids
Giving your child fish oils may offer many health benefits.
Fish oils are an excellent source of the omega 3 fatty acids. These fats are classified as “essential fatty acids” and they play an important role in cellular and hormonal function. Our bodies can’t make them so we need to get them from our diets.
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.
Fish oils provide the omega 3 fatty acids 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. 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.
Three Specific Ways How Fish Oils May Benefit Children
There are several studies showing who 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 it 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. of DHA experienced decreased asthma symptoms.
2. Reduce Symptoms of ADHD:
- Research has shown that some children with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorders (ADHD) may have low blood levels of omega 3 fatty acids. Studies focusing on fish oils and ADHD it may help increase attention spans and reduce hyperactivity.
3. Improve Language and Learning Skills:
- A study published in the Jan/Feg 2005 issue of Autism-Asperger’s Digest claims children diagnosed with autism or Asperger’s syndrome given 1 gram of Nordic Naturals ProEFA fish oil experienced improved language and reading skills.
- 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
While fish oils are a popular health supplement, you may be wondering if it’s safe to give them to your child?
Research indicates that the most common fish oil side effect is gastrointestinal (diarrhea).
This side effect was reported in less than 7% of all studies and discontinuing the use of fish oil resolved this side effect.
Overall, it’s been considered that giving fish oils to children is generally safe as long as your child is not allergic to fish, doesn’t have any bleeding disorders and is not currently taking any anti-coagulation medications.
If you’re concerned about possible mercury exposure from fish, you can use pharmaceutical-grade fish oils.
These products are manufactured using a special process that virtually eliminates all mercury and other contaminants.
Samples of Fish Oils For Children
Due to the growing popularity of fish oils, you can now get products specially marketed towards children.
Many of these products are formulated to provide lower dosages of omega 3 fatty acids and come in a variety of flavors, such as lemon, peach and strawberry.
You can also get child-friendly fish oils available in chew-able soft gels. 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).
Our review of Carlson Labs fish oils revealed they are regularly tested (using AOAC international protocols) for freshness, potency and purity by an independent, FDA-registered laboratory. This is a purified fish oil free of mercury, cadmium, lead, PCB’s and 28 other contaminants. Retail prices can range from $20 to $28 a bottle.
Health From The Sun – A+ Kids Pure Fish Oil comes in a tutti-fruity flavor packaged in a 4 ounce glass bottle.
Each 1/2 teaspoon provides 187 mg. of DHA and 125 mg. of EPA. This product 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 another kid-friendly fish oil that comes as a Berry-flavored 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 and quality.
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. It 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 supplement.
It’s made from purified arctic cod liver oil and 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. This 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 kids you may find from online and retail stores.
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 specially made for children can help ensure your child receives the benefits from this healthy oil for their growing minds and bodies.
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