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There’s a treasure trove of research to show the benefits of taking fish oil for Omega-3 essential fatty acids. Among them is brain health, because fatty acids are important for optimal brain functioning.
Since they are not produced by the body, essential fatty acids must come from the foods we eat. Moreover, they are “essential,” because these fatty acids have a major impact on the neurons and nerve cells in the brain.
Importance of Omega-3 and Omega-6
There are two main essential fatty acids: Omega-3 and Omega-6. The best source of Omega-3’s come from eating fish. Second to that is taking a good, quality fish oil supplement.
Together with omega-3 fatty acids, omega-6 fatty acids play an important role in brain function, and normal growth and development. Furthermore, omega-6s help stimulate skin and hair growth, maintain bone health, regulate metabolism, and maintain the reproductive system.
The Standard American Diet contains far too many foods with Omega-6’s. This causes the ratio of Omega-3 to Omega-6 to be significantly out of balance. In fact, some research notes that humans evolved eating a 1:1 ratio of Omega-3 to Omega-6. Today, however, that ratio is nearly 1:15. Put another way, for every 1 Omega-3 we eat, we are ingesting 15 Omega-6’s.
Why is this a problem? Because Omega-6’s are considered pro-inflammatory. In short, we are ingesting 15 times more inflammatory essential fatty acids than anti-inflammatory ones.
The World Health Organization recommends eating fish 1-2 times per week, because Omega-3 fatty acids in fish may protect against chronic diseases like heart disease.
Studies about Omega-3 fish oil supplementation
Lack of Omega-3 essential fatty acids have been linked to aggression, impulsivity and ADHD. Symptoms of essential fatty acid deficiency include dry skin, dry hair, dandruff, and constant thirst/drinking.
Consider this randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled pilot study Although it included an incredibly small sample size, it demonstrated that children with autism receiving an Omega-3 supplement showed improvement, especially in hyperactivity and repetitive behaviors.
Another showed that parents of children diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) who took supplemental fish oil for 6 months, reported improved motor and cognitive skills, concentration, eye contact, social interaction and sleep.
A 2019 publication in the journal Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition shows that higher DHA levels at birth are associated with better childhood neurodevelopmental health, while lower DHA levels were linked to higher rates of autism spectrum disorders and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder.
How we use fish oil supplements
My daughter, as part of the Nemechek Protocol, takes fish oil daily as part of a simple regimen designed to reduce inflammation.
Although there are many types of fish oil supplements, Omega-3 oils are most often found in soft gel form. It can also be found in a liquid format for those who can’t swallow pills.
Get strategies and recipes to get kids to take fish oil HERE.
It’s important to find a good, quality fish oil. To that end, check to see that the manufacturer is a member of GOED. GOED represents the worldwide EPA and DHA omega-3 industry where members are required to certify that they will adhere to quality benchmarks.
We like NOW brand fish oil supplements, because they contain DHA-500. DHA is essential for brain development and accounts for 97% of the omega-3 fatty acids found in the brain. Additionally, research shows it has anti-inflammatory properties too.
In summary, essential fatty acids are important for overall heath, including brain function. Taking the right fish oil supplementation can balance out the ratio of Omega-6 and Omega-3 intake.
Have a child who won’t take (liquid) fish oil? Here are some ways to help.
References and further reading
- Simopoulos, A.P. (2002). The importance of the ratio of omega-6/omega-3 essential fatty acids. Biomedicine and Pharmacotherapy, 56(8), 365-379
- Hibbeln, J.R., Ferguson, T.A., & Blasbalg, T.L. (2006). Omega-3 fatty acid deficiencies in neurodevelopment, aggression, and autonomic dysregulation: Opportunities for intervention. International Review of Psychiatry, 18(2), 107-118.
- Garland, M.R., & Hallahan, B. (2006). Essential fatty acids and their role in conditions characterized by impulsivity. International Review of Psychiatry, 18(2), 99-105.
- Richardson, A.J. (2006). Omega-3 fatty acids in ADHD and related neurodevelopmental disorders. International Review of Psychiatry, 18(2), 155-172.
- Richardson, A.J., & Puri, B.K. (2000). The potential role of fatty acids in attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder. Prostaglandins, Luekotrienes and Essential Fatty Acids, 63(1/2), 79-87.
- Amminger, G.P., Berger, G.E., Schafer, M.R., Klier, C., Friedrich, M.H., & Feucht M. (2007). Omega-3 fatty acids supplementation in children with autism: A double-blind randomized, placebo-controlled pilot study. Biological Psychiatry, 61, 551-553.
- Bell, J.G., MacKinlay, E.E., Dick, J.R., MacDonald, D.J., Boyle, R.M., & Glen, A.C.A. (2004). Essential fatty acids and phospholipase A2 in autistic spectrum disorders. Prostaglandins, Luekotrienes and Essential Fatty Acids, 71, 201-204.
- Martins BP, Bandarra NM, Figueiredo-Braga M. The role of marine omega-3 in human neurodevelopment, including Autism Spectrum Disorders and Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder – a review. Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr. 2020;60(9):1431-1446.
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