How Omega-3 fatty acids help support your child’s brain

Whether it’s insisting they wear a helmet while riding a bike, or ­­pulling a woolly hat over their ears when it’s cold – you’re probably used to taking care of your little ones head. But it’s not just what’s on the outside that counts. Did you know that there are also things you can do to help look after your child’s brain? Here we’ll explain how omega-3 fatty acids can help support how your child’s brain works and develops.

What are omega-3 fatty acids?

Omega-3 fatty acids are the healthy, unsaturated fats which should be eaten as part of a balanced diet. The two most important omega-3 fatty acids are DHA and EPA. Your body can’t make enough of these omega-3 fatty acids by itself, so it’s essential you get them from the foods you eat or by taking a supplement. Oily fish such as salmon, trout, mackerel and sardines are the best sources of the omega-3 fatty acids DHA and EPA.

What are the benefits of omega-3 fatty acids?

The omega-3 fatty acids DHA and EPA play an important role in lots of different functions in your body. Making sure your child’s diet contains these omega-3 fatty acids can help to:

  • support how their brain and nervous system works and develops
  • look after the health of their eyes
  • keep their heart healthy as they get older

To find out more about these healthy fats, including how much omega-3 your kids need, take a look at our omega-3 guide.

How does omega-3 support children’s brain health?

During their early years, your child will be busy discovering the world around them. From their first words to their first day at school, their brains will be working hard to learn new and exciting things daily. So feeding them a varied, nutritious diet can help to provide their body with the energy and nutrients it needs to grow.

Omega-3 fatty acids play an important role in kids’ health from the very beginning. During pregnancy and breastfeeding, the omega-3 fatty acids DHA and EPA have been shown to support the development of a healthy brain, eyes and nervous system in babies and infants.

When it comes to their school years, learning to read and write, making new friends, getting homework and sitting exams all demands lots of brain power from your child. Omega-3 fatty acids have been shown to help children with their concentration, attention, behaviour, mood and how well they learn. What’s more, children with conditions like dyslexia, DCD (dyspraxia), ADHD and autism are more likely to have low blood levels of omega-3.

The omega-3 fatty acid called DHA (Docosahexaenoic Acid) plays a major role when it comes to brain health. This is partly because lots of DHA is found within the grey matter of the part of your brain known as the frontal cortex. This is the part of your brain responsible for attention, problem-solving, decision-making, learning, memory, emotions and behaviours. DHA makes up an essential part of your cell membranes and plays an important role in how these cells send signals in your brain.

So feeding your child a healthy, balanced diet, rich in omega-3 fatty acids can help to support their brain health as they grow and develop. But if getting your child to eat oily fish is a challenge, then adding a high quality omega-3 fish oil supplement, such as SOMEGA® Easy Omega-3 into their routine can be a great way to ensure they’re still getting those all important fatty acids. Which leaves them to focus on the more important things in life – like building a fort and putting makeup on the dog!

Resources:

Good fats and bad fats explained. British Nutrition Foundation. www.nutrition.org

A healthy, varied diet for children. British Nutrition Foundation. www.nutrition.org

Feeding your toddler/pre-school child. British Nutrition Foundation. www.nutrition.org

Infant nutrition. British Nutrition Foundation. www.nutrition.org

Omega-3. British Dietetic Association. www.bda.uk.com, last reviewed September 2017.

Fats. British Dietetic Association. www.bda.uk.com, last reviewed January 2018.

Macronutrients and energy balance. Oxford Handbook online. www.oxfordmedicine.com, published online Jan 2012.

Diet, behaviour and learning in children. British Dietetic Association. www.bda.uk.com, last reviewed January 2017.

Kuratko CN, Barrett EC et al. The relationship of Docosahexaenoic Acid (DHA) with learning and behaviour in healthy children: A review. Nutrients 2013 (5) 2777-2810

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