I get asked a lot of questions about Omega 3 and it’s something I speak a lot about. I’ve also written about it a few times.
There’s been huge amounts of research done over the past few years into Omega 3 and the effects it can have on children. In particular children with special needs and learning difficulties. And they’ve found that it has some fairly significant benefits.
In particular Omega 3 has been found to help things like anxiety, hyperactivity, concentration, general brain function, memory, even things like depression. So for children with Autism, ADHD, Sensory Processing Disorders even an Intellectual Disability, having lots of Omega 3 in their system can be really beneficial.
The problem is that most children simply don’t get enough Omega 3. Because most kids either don’t eat enough oily fish if any. Therefore, it can be really good to give them a supplement.
There are so many different supplements out there and getting the right quantity can be a bit of a minefield.
Often parents who are aware that their children need to be having Omega 3 will go out and buy the kids jelly sweet supplements. Unfortunately these aren’t great. The problem with them is that there’s not very much Omega 3 actually in them.
For example, my son who’s 11 needs to be having 1200 milligrams of Omega 3 per day in accordance with the Institute of Medicine guidelines. These jelly sweets contain 15 to 30 milligrams in each one. So he would have to be taking practically a whole tub every day just to be getting his daily quantity.
By giving them kids jelly sweets all it’s really doing is giving them a whole load of sugar and probably a load of additives and colourings as well. So the best thing to do is just to skip kids ones altogether and go straight to the adult supplements.
The adults ones don’t taste nice and they’re not squidgy and chewy. As they are just pure fish oil, getting them to take them can be quite tricky. Because Lachlan’s been having them for a year now, he’s pretty good, he just shoves the capsules in his mouth. He can’t swallow them yet but what he will do is just chew them, suck all the liquid out and then spit the empty capsules into the bin.
He wouldn’t have done that straight away though. So with many kids if they won’t swallow the capsule, you can either pierce the end of it and just squeeze the liquid onto a spoon and give it to them that way. Or, because it doesn’t taste very nice, it tastes a bit fishy, you can just put it into their food or into a drink for them.
What type of supplement?
Omega 3 is made up of two things, DHA and EPA. Now the reason this is important is because depending on the age of your child, depends on how much of each of those they need.
If your child is 4 years or under they need to be having a supplement that is higher in DHA than EPA. Approximately two-thirds DHA to one-third EPA. The reason for this is that DHA focuses on early brain development. Whereas EPA is more about brain function and brain stability. For younger kids getting high levels of DHA is really important.
If you’ve got a child who’s 5 years and over, they need to be on a supplement that is higher in EPA than DHA. So the opposite way around, just about two-thirds EPA to one-third DHA.
A lot of adult capsules (not all, but some) contain 300 milligrams of Omega 3 in total. And that might be made up of 180 milligrams of EPA to 120 milligrams of DHA. That is perfect for a child who’s 5 years and over.
It will say on the pack the total amount of Omega 3, and it will also say the quantity of EPA and
the quantity of DHA.
How much Omega 3 should I give my child?
Getting the quantity right is the most important thing. This can be quite tricky as all children are unique. So it may be important for you to try them on them with the amount recommended below. But after a couple of months try increasing it slightly or reducing it slightly to find the quantity that suits your child.
If your child is under the age of 6, they should be having 600 mgs a day of total Omega 3. Two capsules if the capsules contain 300 mgs each.
If your child is between the age of 6 and 10 they should be having 800 – 900 mgs a day.
And finally, If your child is over the age of 10, now this is the only time where it matters if they’re a girl or a boy. If they’re a boy they need to be having 1200 mgs a day, if it’s a girl 1000 mgs a day.
Should you have any concerns you should seek advice rom your doctor. Also if your child has a blood disorder, it is important to speak to your doctor before giving them the supplement.
The FDA guidelines, although quite vague, do recommend that the maximum Omega 3 daily intake for anyone should remain below 3000. So just be aware if you do decide to increase your child’s dose to keep it below the 3000 mg daily recommended limit.
Although research into the effects of Omega 3 has been massive over the past few years, there is still no definitive answers as to what the best amount to give a child with a special need or learning difficulty, actually is. And there are some researchers, such as Dr Sandy Newman M.D (an ADHD specialist) who recommend between 2000 – 2500 mgs per day.
But I think if you start with the amount’s I’ve suggested above, then slowly over time alter to find the perfect amount for your child.
If you have any questions, you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org