Omega fats are especially important for growing children as these vital fatty acids provide the basis for a healthy brain, retinas, and many body functions. Unfortunately, many children, let alone adults, do not get enough of these essential fatty acids in their diets.
In what may seem an odd statement to those brought up on a low fat diet mantra (thankfully seems like old news now), we must remember that fat is an essential dietary requirement. All of the cells in the human body have fat as a major component of the cellular membrane. Children with severe dietary insufficiencies of omega fats could potentially experience any of the following conditions:
- Arthritis-like condition
- Learning disabilities
- Growth retardation
- Vision problems
The benefits for children of omega-3 fatty acids are several, and include:
Brain health and activity: Children need both omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids for healthy growth and development, as well as bone health, regulating metabolism, and skin and hair growth.
Attention deficit disorder: there is some recent evidence that children with behaviour disorders may be deficient in essential fatty acids. Researchers believe that omega-3 fatty acids, and in particular EPA and DHA, may improve blood flow in the brain and make “cellular communication more efficient”.
Bronchial asthma: Omega-3 supplementation may improve children’s asthma symptoms according to the University of Maryland Medical Centre by reducing the inflammatory response associated with asthma.
As a mother I can appreciate the difficulty in getting children to consume foods that are high in the much needed Omega-3 category such as:
- Fatty fish, such as salmon and mackerel
- Eggs, in particular those higher in omega-3
- Grass-fed beef
- Wild game
Those foods are often not at the top of a typical child’s wish list! In the case of nuts, even if your child enjoys them, concerns over allergies mean that they are no longer a viable snack choice in schools, parties or other child-friendly locations.
In the case of getting omega-3 oils from fish, then as a parent you’re also advised not to get your children’s balance from fish that may contain toxic mercury and other industrial chemicals, such as fresh tuna, swordfish and shark.
To get the correct ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 fatty acids in the diet many parents turn to supplementation. Luckily, gone are the days when a spoonful of cod liver oil was all that was vailable. These days, children have their own ranges of omega supplements with added flavours to prevent the squeals of distaste! As for getting them to eat their greens, I’ll leave that one up to you!