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NUTRITION FOR CHILDREN 

It is unbelievable to see what some parents are willing to endure to give their children a head start in life or help them perform better. These parents work long hours to pay for private education or drive from pillar to post for extra lessons and individual tuition. And while all these elements play a role in their children’s performance, parents often miss a much simpler but vitally important component. Nutrition, and especially omega-3 intake, can have a make-or-break effect on children’s development and performance.

WHAT ARE OMEGA-3s?

Omega-3 fatty acids are essential nutrients for everyone from birth to old age because they assist in basic cell functioning, cell repair and growth, and other body functions. However, there is a catch. Omega-3 fatty acids cannot be synthesised in the human body and must be obtained through supplements or food like salmon, tuna, herring, sardines and mackerel or from plant-based sources such as walnuts, flax and flaxseed oil, canola oil, olive oil and soybean oil.

The reality is that most people and especially children are omega-3 deficient, partly because of our deteriorating western diets that don’t include enough of the omega-3 sources and our bodies’ inability to produce these essential fatty acids. However, parents cannot ignore the potential risks of low omega-3 levels in their children’s diets.

OMEGA-3 & KID'S HEALTH BENEFITS

A study by the University of Oxford found that a child’s blood level of omega-3 is a significant indicator of his or her ability to concentrate and learn.One of the co-authors of the study, Paul Montgomery, Ph.D., from Oxford University’s Centre for Evidence-Based Intervention in the Department of Social Policy and Intervention said, “Higher levels of omega-3 in the blood, and DHA in particular, were associated with better reading and memory, as well as with fewer behaviour problems as rated by parents and teachers.” The study also found the converse to be true and lower levels of omega-3 in the blood was linked to poorer behaviour and learning.

However, in addition to better reading, memory and behaviour, different scientific studies have also linked omega-3s with significant other health benefits for children such as:

  • Possibly improving the behaviour, reducing hyperactivity and boosting the attention of kids under the age of 12.
  • Improving the symptoms of depression in children between the ages of 6 and 12.
  • Potentially reducing the risk of contracting type 2 diabetes.
  • Aiding the reduction of inflammation of children’s airways, which could benefit those suffering from asthma.

So, while it is clear that in the short term, decreased omega-3 levels are linked to poorer behaviour and learning, researchers in this study were concerned that that the low blood levels of omega-3 in the children studied, would for adults indicate a high risk of heart disease.

This finding is consistent with other studies that have found omega-3’s health benefits are not just limited to childhood, but in adults it can contribute to improved cardiovascular health, decreased risk of certain cancers, depression and other psychiatric conditions, as well as a lower risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis, osteoporosis, dementia, and Alzheimer’s disease.

HOW CAN MY CHILD GET MORE OMEGA-3?

Fish is a primary source of omega-3 but our children are probably not eating as much as we need for a healthy brain, heart and immune system. In fact, as part of this study, the parents of these children who were thought to have below-average reading skills, were asked about their children’s eating habits. The survey revealed that nine out of ten children in the sample ate fish less than twice a week, and nearly one in ten never ate fish at all. It also showed that almost none took supplements or ate foods fortified with omega-3, which explains their low omega-3 blood levels.

The most effective alternative is to add a high-quality omega-3 supplement to your child’s diet. The new STAR KIDS™ Omega-3 provides children with the omega-3 essential fatty acids that are vital for kids’ growing minds and bodies. These fish-shaped gummies have no fishy smell and children enjoy their orange flavour. Parents love the on-the-go convenience and the peace of mind that their children have the nutritional foundation to reach their potential. It's available at selected Clicks and Dis-Chem stores.