Did you know that omega-3s are vital unsaturated fatty acids that our bodies need to work efficiently and perform functions such as building cell membranes in the brain, controlling blood clots, and maintaining good eye health? The most important benefit is that they reduce the inflammatory processes in the body, thus making it easier to prevent chronic diseases such as heart disease. The dietary sources of omega-3 fatty acids fall into two main food categories: animal and vegetable. Oily fish is the best known source, but they are also found in vegetable and nut oils, walnuts, flaxseed, algae oils, nutritional supplements, and fortified foods like milk and yogurt.
What researchers say
A study by the University of Pennsylvania’s psychologist Professor Adrian Raine, who specializes in neurocriminology, found that omega-3 fatty acids improve children’s behavior. The researchers gave a group of children a drink high in omega-3 fatty acids every day for six months. Another six months after the study, the researchers found that the omega-3 fatty acid-rich diet not only improved children’s behavior, but also improved their social skills and made their parents happier.
Other studies have shown that children of mothers who took omega-3 supplements during pregnancy and the first few months of breastfeeding scored higher on cognitive tests by the age of four than children whose mothers did not take supplements. However, nutrition experts advise parents that omega-3s don’t guarantee smarter children. A study by South Australian Health and Medical Research and the University of Adelaide in Australia tracked the cognitive development of 600 children from the fetal stage to death when they were four years old. The results suggest that pregnant women with a diet high in omega-3 fats may not necessarily have smarter children. Research by scientists at the University of Gothenburg in Sweden has shown that some children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) can receive omega-3 and omega-6 supplements.
Omega-3 Benefits for Babies
Here are some of the benefits of omega-3 fatty acids for babies:
- They improve the development of the nervous system and the immune system.
- Can prevent the development of emotional disorders, learning disorders, and immune system disorders.
- Contain a powerhouse of nutrients to ensure a baby is developing properly and reaching its maximum potential.
- The nutrients found in omega-3 fatty acids protect babies from brain damage, profound developmental delays, and possibly from ADHD.
- Adequate levels optimize brain growth in babies, especially during the third trimester.
- Reduce the risk of preeclampsia (pregnancy-related high blood pressure), which can be linked to an omega-3 deficiency.
- May prevent early delivery.
- Important for visual and neurological development.
Good to know: Experts continue to advise pregnant women to include omega-3 fatty acids in their diet. If children refuse to eat fish, parents should ensure that they are eating plenty of fortified foods and that they are consuming the children’s omega-3 supplements in moderation.