Omega-3s are essential fatty acids that have been shown to have a variety of health benefits. They are essential for brain health as well as the development of the central nervous system and the cardiovascular system. Omega-3s are anti-inflammatory and may be beneficial in treating inflammatory conditions such as obesity, asthma, and arthritis. The three types of omega-3 fatty acids are eicosapentaenoic acid(EPA), alpha-linoleic acid(ALA), and docosahexaenoic acid(DHA). ALA can be obtained from plant sources like flax seeds and chia seeds while DHA and EPA are primarily obtained from animal sources such as fish oil.
Omega-3s, DHA, and EPA are long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids that have been shown to have significant physiological and biochemical functions in the body. These essential fatty acids are particularly important for children as they play a significant role in their growth and development as well as providing several health benefits.
Eating diets rich in omega-3 during pregnancy and infancy has been shown to be beneficial both for the infant and the mother. Docosahexaenoic acid plays a critical role in the development of vision and cognitive functions. Deficiencies in omega-3s have been linked to impairments in cognitive and behavioral performances in children. Studies have also shown that higher amounts of DHA in a mother’s breast milk can lead to better growth and development of the brain in children. Omega-3s may improve brain functions such as learning and memory. They increase the activity of the prefrontal cortex, the region of the brain responsible for impulse control and planning.
Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder(ADHD) is a mental condition associated with symptoms such as hyperactivity, impulsiveness, and difficulty focusing. Dietary supplements with Omega-3s, DHA, and EPA have been shown to have a positive effect on the attention scores of young children. This is particularly beneficial for children with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder. Increased consumption of EPA has been shown to reduce anxiety in children with this condition. Omega-3 dietary supplements are therefore beneficial as they improve the literacy and behavior of children with ADHD.
Consumption of docosahexaenoic acid has been shown to lead to the development of a more mature visual acuity. The intake of DHA is not only important during the perinatal period but is also vital until the end of the first year of life.
Asthma is a chronic inflammatory condition that affects both children and adults. It is associated with symptoms such as chest pain, breathing difficulties, coughing, and wheezing. Studies show that the intake of omega-3s can help to significantly ease these symptoms. Supplementing with DHA and EPA in the first year of life can also delay allergic reactions thus protecting against allergies during infancy.
Consumption of omega-3 fatty acids is also beneficial for premature infants. DHA supplements for preterm babies have been shown to have a progressive increase in circulating DHA. This shows that daily enteral DHA intake is possible thus reducing deficiency in premature infants.
A significant number of infants and children suffer from sleep disturbances. A deficiency of omega-3 fatty acids may increase the risk of sleeping problems. Studies show that DHA supplements reduces sleep interruption thus increasing sleep time.