SHOULD I GIVE MY CHILD A FISH OIL SUPPLEMENT?

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SHOULD I GIVE MY CHILD A FISH OIL SUPPLEMENT?

I get this question from parents ALL the time. Often (but not always) my answer is yes!

Omega 3 Fatty Acids, found in fish/fish oil and some algae are essential for the brain’s structure and function as well as for maintaining a healthy heart and immune system. There is a lot of evidence stacking up that points to their benefit for children.

A study in 2013 found that children’s blood levels of long-chain Omega 3’s (DHA) significantly predicted how well they were able to concentrate and learn. Previous studies by the same authors already showed benefits of supplementation with long-chain omega-3 (EPA+DHA) for children with ADHD, Dyspraxia, Dyslexia, and related conditions. Other studies have also found benefit for children with ADHD, behavior disorders, and difficulty sleeping.

Just this week, a new study from the University of Pennsylvania again suggests that omega-3, a fatty acid commonly found in fish oil, may have long-term neurodevelopmental effects that ultimately reduce antisocial and aggressive behavior problems in children. Other brain-imaging researchers have shown that omega-3 supplementation increases the function of the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, an area important for executive functioning (the sit-still-and-pay-attention part of the brain)

Omega 3 fatty acids are literally brain food! From a TCM perspective, any oil is a Yin substance. Children are inherently more Yang, as their Yin (bodies, flesh, bones, etc) is still developing. Getting a good amount of healthy Yin substances in the diet is essential for children’s development and Omega 3s are some of the best Yin substances out there.

The children I don’t prescribe fish oil for are children who have thick greasy tongue coats and who tend to be more tired or lethargic. These children may eventually benefit from Omega 3 supplementation, but we have some other work to do first in changing their diets and clearing out the pathogenic dampness. If the digestion is too weighed down to be able to digest fats well, then supplementing with an oil is only going to add to the problem.

There is always the question of quality when it comes to supplements, and fish oil in particular. Consumer Reports looked at a range of fish oil brands – you can watch their video about the study here.  I like the brand Nordic Naturals (I have no affiliation with them) and often recommend that brand to parents.

Photo Credit: Martin Cooper

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