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Should Kids Take Omega-3 Supplements?

Should Kids Take Omega-3 Supplements?

Omega-3 fatty acids are a crucial component of a healthy diet.

These essential fats are especially important for children, as they play a key role in growth and development and are associated with numerous health benefits (1Trusted Source).

However, many parents are unsure whether omega-3 supplements are necessary — or even safe — for their children.

This article takes an in-depth look at the benefits, side effects, and dosage recommendations of omega-3 supplements to determine whether kids should take them.

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What are omega-3s?

Omega-3s are fatty acids that are integral to many aspects of health, including fetal development, brain function, heart health, and immunity (2Trusted Source).

They’re considered essential fatty acids because your body cannot produce them on its own and needs to obtain them from food.

The three main types are alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA).

ALA is present in a variety of plant foods, including vegetable oils, nuts, seeds, and certain vegetables. Yet, it isn’t active in your body, and your body only converts it into active forms, such as DHA and EPA, in very small amounts (3, 4Trusted Source).

Meanwhile, EPA and DHA occur naturally in fatty fish, such as salmon, mackerel, and tuna, and are widely available in supplements (3).

While many types of omega-3 supplements exist, some of the most common are fish oil, krill oil, and algae oil.

SUMMARY

Omega-3 fats are essential fatty acids that play a central role in several aspects of your health. ALA, EPA, and DHA are the three main types available in foods and supplements.

Omega-3 benefits for kids

Many studies suggest that omega-3 supplements offer several benefits for children.

May improve symptoms of ADHD

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a common condition linked to symptoms like hyperactivity, impulsiveness, and difficulty focusing (5Trusted Source).

Some research indicates that omega-3 supplements may help decrease ADHD symptoms in children.

A review of 16 studies revealed that omega-3 fatty acids improved memory, attention, learning, impulsivity, and hyperactivity, all of which are often affected by ADHD (6Trusted Source).

A 16-week study in 79 boys showed that taking 1,300 mg of omega-3s daily improved attention in those with and without ADHD (7Trusted Source).

What’s more, a large review of 52 studies concluded that dietary modifications and fish oil supplements were two of the most promising techniques to reduce ADHD symptoms in children (8Trusted Source).

Could reduce asthma

Asthma is a chronic condition that affects children and adults, causing symptoms like chest pain, breathing difficulties, coughing, and wheezing (9Trusted Source).

Some studies have found that omega-3 fatty acid supplements help relieve these symptoms.

For instance, a 10-month study in 29 children noted that taking a fish-oil capsule containing 120 mg of combined DHA and EPA daily helped decrease symptoms of asthma (10Trusted Source).

Another study in 135 children associated a higher intake of omega-3 fatty acids with a reduction in asthma symptoms caused by indoor air pollution (11Trusted Source).

Other studies reveal a possible link between omega-3 fatty acids and a lower risk of asthma in children (12Trusted Source, 13Trusted Source).

Promotes better sleep

Sleep disturbances affect nearly 4% of children under age 18 (14Trusted Source).

One study in 395 children tied lower blood levels of omega-3 fatty acids to a higher risk of sleep problems. It also found that supplementing with 600 mg of DHA over 16 weeks decreased sleep interruptions and led to nearly 1 more hour of sleep per night (15Trusted Source).

Other research suggests that consuming more omega-3 fatty acids during pregnancy could improve sleep patterns in infants (16Trusted Source, 17Trusted Source).

However, more high-quality studies regarding omega-3s and sleep in children are needed.

Enhances brain health

Emerging research indicates that omega-3 fatty acids may improve brain function and mood in children — in particular, learning, memory, and brain development (18Trusted Source).

In a 6-month study, 183 children who ate a spread high in omega-3 fatty acids experienced improved verbal learning ability and memory (19Trusted Source).

Similarly, a small, 8-week study in 33 boys linked 400–1,200 mg of DHA daily to increased activation of the prefrontal cortex, the region of the brain responsible for attention, impulse control, and planning (20Trusted Source).

Furthermore, several studies suggest that omega-3 fats help prevent depression and mood disorders in children (21Trusted Source, 22Trusted Source, 23Trusted Source).

SUMMARY

Research has found that omega-3 fatty acids may enhance brain health, promote better sleep, and improve ADHD and asthma symptoms.

Potential side effects

The side effects of omega-3 supplements, such as fish oil, are generally very mild. The most common ones include (24Trusted Source):

  • bad breath
  • unpleasant aftertaste
  • headache
  • heartburn
  • stomach upset
  • nausea
  • diarrhea

Make sure your kid sticks to the recommended dosage to reduce their risk of side effects. You can also start them on a lower dose, increasing gradually to assess tolerance.

Those who are allergic to fish or shellfish should avoid fish oil and other fish-based supplements, such as cod liver oil and krill oil.

Instead, opt for other foods or supplements rich in omega-3s like flaxseed or algal oil.

SUMMARY

Omega-3 supplements are linked to mild side effects like bad breath, headaches, and digestive issues. Stick to the recommended dosage and avoid fish-based supplements in cases of fish or shellfish allergies.

https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/omega-3-for-kids


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