Omega-3 fatty acids play an essential role in brain development even before birth. Omega-3 fatty acids taken during pregnancy result in increased brain function of the child in early life when compared with pregnant women who do not consume adequate levels of omega-3 fatty acids. Intervention studies have shown that improving maternal DHA nutrition decreases the risk of poor infant and child visual and neural development.
Omega-3 fatty acids, specifically DHA, are important for cellular membrane fluidity, neuron formation and function. DHA must be included in cell membranes to have optimal development of brain function as well as eye development and function.
Inadequate intakes of omega-3 fatty acids in children decrease DHA and increase omega-6 fatty acids in the brain. Western diets are low in omega-3 fatty acids and have higher amounts of pro-inflammatory omega-6 fatty acids.
The human body cannot make DHA or EPA efficiently; therefore, these fatty acids are conditionally essential and needed in the diet. Children who do not consume enough fish in their diet are likely not getting adequate EPA and DHA forms of omega-3 fatty acids. Supplementing with omega-3 fatty acids may be necessary to ensure children obtain the required amounts of DHA and EPA for brain growth and development.
Is your child consuming enough omega-3 fatty acids? Talk to your healthcare provider about adding in an omega-3 rich acid supplement.