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Sources of Omega-3 and the Health Benefits for Kids

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Sources of Omega-3 and the Health Benefits for Kids

What is Omega-3?

Omega-3 fatty acids are considered essential fatty acids. They are a type of polyunsaturated fat that is not made in the body and can only be obtained through the diet, or as a supplement.

Sources of Omega-3

Most people know that Omega-3 oils are present in oily fish like tuna, salmon, halibut and sardines. However, this is by no means the only source. There are plenty of other ways to obtain Omega-3 for those who do not eat fish or who are concerned about fish being contaminated with pollutants such as mercury, dioxins and PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls).

Vegetable sources of Omega-3 include flaxseeds, flaxseed oil, canola (rapeseed) oil, soybeans, soybean oil, pumpkin seeds, pumpkin seed oil, purslane, perilla seed oil, walnuts, walnut oil, seaweed and green vegetables such as spinach, kale, broccoli and brussels sprouts. In addition, there are an increasing number of products, including margarines and yoghurts that are now enriched with Omega-3 fats by their makers. It can also be obtained from algae, which is where the Omega-3 in the vegetarian and vegan Omega-3 DHA supplement made by Deva Nutrition is derived.

Sources of Omega-3

Health Benefits of Omega-3

A number of large-scale studies have suggested that a diet rich in Omega-3 oils can reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. This evidence dates back as far as 1972 when a study in Greenland linked the low incidence of coronary heart disease in the Inuit people to their consumption of Omega-3 oils and it has been backed up by further studies since.

Omega-3 fatty acids are highly concentrated in the brain and seem to be important for good cognitive (brain memory and performance) and behavioural function. Infants who do not get enough Omega-3 fatty acids from their mothers during pregnancy are at risk of developing vision and nerve problems. Symptoms of Omega-3 fatty acid deficiency in adults can include fatigue, poor memory or concentration, allergies (eg. eczema, asthma, hay fever), heart problems, mood swings or depression, poor circulation and difficulty sleeping.

Further research has also suggested that an adequate intake of Omega-3 oils may have the following benefits for health:

Benefits of Omega-3
  • A decreased risk of irregular heart rhythms (arrhythmias), which can lead to sudden cardiac death
  • Decreased levels of triglyceride - a type of fat found in the blood that has been linked to heart disease
  • A decreased growth rate of the fatty plaques that can fur up the arteries
  • Reduced risk of cancers such as prostate cancer and skin cancer
  • Reducing the clumping together of platelets that can cause potentially harmful blood clots
  • Lower blood pressure

Omega-3 also helps to reduce inflammation, whereas Omega-6 (another essential fatty acid) tends to promote inflammation, which is why it is important to have a good balance of Omega-3 and Omega-6 in the diet. The typical western diet tends to contain a much higher ratio of Omega-6 to Omega-3 than the optimal balance, which is thought to be around 3:1

The typical Mediterranean diet, however, has a much better balance between Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids. It does not include much meat (which is high in Omega-6 fatty acids) but instead incorporates a much higher percentage of foods that are rich in Omega-3 fatty acids, such as whole grains, fresh fruits and vegetables, fish, olive oil and garlic. A number of studies have connected this dietary difference with the reduced incidence of heart disease seen in this part of the world.

Benefits of Omega-3 for Children

Studies in recent years have suggested that a diet rich in Omega-3 can help improve behaviour in violent and antisocial teenagers as well as helping children with attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

One such study, in 2005, included 117 children aged 5 to 12 years old. Most of the children had developmental co-ordination disorder (DCD). Children with DCD have difficulties with their motor co-ordination, making them clumsy or awkward and DCD is also closely related to dyslexia and ADHD.

Boy

Half of the children were given supplements containing Omega-3 for six months whilst the others received placebo pills (containing no Omega-3). The children's motor skills, reading and spelling abilities and behaviour were measured before, during and after the supplements were taken.

Boys in School

The study found that during the first three months, the children who took the supplements with Omega-3 showed improvements in behaviour and their reading and spelling abilities. Their short-term memories also improved.

The children who took the placebo pills made the expected rate of progress in their reading and spelling abilities during the first three months, but when they switched to taking the Omega-3 for the next three months, the researchers also saw improvements in their reading and spelling and behaviour too.


More research is certainly needed in this area, but, given the weight of evidence that now points to the health benefits of Omega-3, ensuring that both you and your children have an adequate intake of this essential fatty acid would seem to be a reasonable approach.

As always, you should consult your doctor first if you are planning to undertake a new supplement regime and you are taking any form of medication or if you have any concerns regarding any symptoms.

Deva Omega-3 DHA
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