Do kids need omega-3 fats?
For the past few years, the emphasis on consuming omega-3 fatty acids for nutritional value has been increasing sharply. But, do you really know what they are and why your toddler needs them? What are the benefits and side-effects of omega-3 for kids?
Omega-3 fatty acids are an integral part of a healthy and nutritious diet. These are essential for the proper growth and development of a toddler, and linked with various health benefits.
Omega-3 fatty acids are essential fatty acids as they are not produced in the body, and have to be consumed via diet or supplements. There are three kinds of omega-3 fatty acids your kid needs, such as alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA).
Benefits of omega-3 for children
The body requires omega-3 fatty acids for a variety of functions, ranging from muscular activity to the growth of cells:
- Brain health:Omega-3 for toddlers helps in brain development and maintaining overall health. An increase in the quantity of omega-3 fatty acids consumed can boost the efficiency and performance of school kids. Omega-3 fatty acids play a major role in neurotransmitter functions and therefore, help in the management of psychological and behavioural states.
- Good for ADHD kids: Omega-3 supplements have shown a beneficial effect on the symptoms of ADHD, i.e. Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. The symptoms of ADHD are hyperactivity, impulsiveness and problems with focusing. Intake of omega-3 fatty acids helps in improving brain functions such as memory, attentiveness, learning ability, and impulses.
- Helps in the development of new cells: Omega 3 fatty acids are key to the development of nervous and cardiovascular systems and help in the absorption of nutrients. These are also essential for the development of eyes.
- Helps decrease asthmatic symptoms: Asthma is a long-term condition that results in breathlessness, pain in the chest, cough and wheezing. Few studies have shown that consumption of omega-3 fatty acids can help in reducing asthmatic symptoms in toddlers.
- Helps in proper and improved sleep: Studies show that low amounts of omega-3 fatty acids in the diet can result in increased chances of sleep disturbances. Hence, omega-3 is vital for adequate and undisturbed sleep. Increasing the consumption of omega-3 fatty acids during pregnancy can improve the pattern of sleep in neonates too, as per a study.
Side-effects of omega-3 supplements
The significant potential side-effects include:
- Bad breath
- Awful aftertaste
- Pain in the head
- Problems in stomach or stomach pain
- Loose motions
Note: While the chances of side effects are less, the right omega-3 dosage for children needs to be followed. A doctor will be able to advise the best quantity of omega-3 after studying your child’s overall health and daily diet pattern.
Omega-3 dosages for children usually are:
- For babies of 0-12 months of age, it is 0.5 grams per day
- For those 1 to 3 years of age, it is 0.7 grams per day
- For toddlers of 4 to 8 years of age, it is 0.9 grams per day
- During 9 to 13 years (boys) the dose is 1.2 grams per day
- During 9 to 13 years (girls) the dose is 1.0 grams per day
- During 14 to 18 years (boys) the dose is 1.6 grams per day
- During 14 to 18 years (girls) the dose is 1.1 grams per day
Overall, the majority of studies show that 120-1300 mg of a combination of DHA and EPA every day contributes to the good health of kids. However, the requirement for omega-3 fatty acids varies from person to person. So, talk to a physician or expert before giving omega-3 supplements to kids.
Natural sources of omega-3 fatty acids
The best sources of omega-3 for kids include fishes like rawas or Indian salmon, rohu, pomfret, as well as eggs, soybeans, walnuts and even spinach. Fishes can be baked or steamed to retain the maximum benefits. Also, boiled eggs and stews made with soybeans or spinach are good ideas. Crushed walnuts can be added to salads or even smoothies.
Omega-3 fatty acids are essential for the overall health and development of a child. They are especially crucial for brain health in kids. They are also beneficial for improving sleep quality, and decreasing symptoms of ADHD and asthma.