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Baby & Kids

Fighting Nutritional Deficits in Kids: Omega-3 DHA & EPA and Their Benefits for Children

October 8, 2010 | Guest Contributor

Organic yogurt is full of nutritional value!

Hello from beautiful Olympia! Many of the topics discussed yesterday at the "Healthy Agriculture, Healthy Nutrition, Healthy People” conference in Greece included discussions on the role both genetics AND environment play in health. We now know that environment (which includes among many other things diet and exercise) play a much bigger role in overall health than was once thought. Decades ago, we thought people were more “hard-wired” through their genes, but now we realize there is a great amount of interplay between the two.

So what does this have to do with Omega-3’s and kids?

Dr. William Sears and myself both strongly believe that many kids in America are suffering from what he calls, “Nutritional Deficit Disorder” or NDD. One of the biggest nutritional deficits is a diet that is too low in Omega-3 DHA/EPA and too high in Omega-6 fatty acids. (refer to yesterdays blog for a brief run-down of the two types.)

Here’s the daily requirements for Omega-3 DHA/EPA:
Adults: AT LEAST 650mg Omega-3 DHA/EPA per day
Infants through 2 years of age: 300mg Omega-3 DHA/EPA per day
Children 2-3 years of age: 420mg Omega-3 DHA/EPA per day

Most children in this country don’t get enough Omega-3’s and get too much Omega-6 in their diet. There are lots of medical studies that have shown that proper Omega-3 levels in a child’s diet may improve many common childhood medical problems, including Asthma, Eczema, and Allergies.

There is also now VERY strong evidence that Omega-3 DHA/EPA supplementation can improve symptoms and overall performance in children diagnosed with ADHD and learning disabilities. In fact, many children show improved school performance with proper intake of Omega-3’s.

Of course, we always encourage children and adults to get Omega-3’s through natural sources (see Dr. Sears' blog from yesterday). But sometimes picky eaters take time to develop tastes for some of these foods. Fortunately, these days there are many supplements available, specifically designed for children. They may come in chew, gummy or flavored capsules, and most contain no fishy taste.

One of the (many) reasons we recommend breastfeeding is that it contains the perfect amount of high-quality DHA. In fact, recent studies have shown that infants who breastfeed have on average a 10-point higher IQ than if they are formula fed. Omega-3 DHA/EPA really is great brain-food!!

This gets us back to the Genetics vs. Environment issue. Proper Balance of Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids in our diets is being shown to have MANY long term health benefits, including lower rates of Type 2 Diabetes, Heart Disease, certain Cancers, Asthma, Eczema, Allergies, and Arthritis, just to name a few. While we know that all these diseases have genetic links. We also have the ability to change our environment, our eating habits, and therefore, change our health.

Parents, remember to be good examples. Let your children see you eating these foods and let them know why they are good for you. Always try and have family meals with good food around the table. Also, take steps for the whole family to increase the Omega-3 and decrease the Omega-6. (see yesterday's discussion on the Omega-6 to Omega-3 ratio)

Find ways to make it fun to learn about Omega-3's and Omega-6's. Like, "Kicking out too much of the bad fats, and catching more of good fats!" Or explaining why, "Certain types of fish are your friends."

Check out Dr. Peter Sears' blog tomorrow when he discusses the emerging role that Omega-3 DHA and EPA are playing in mental health and treatment of certain mood disorders. And stay tuned for more insights from Greece on Monday.

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