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Don’t Forget the Brain Food

Posted Mar 03 2008 12:00am

brain.jpgJust like the body needs essential amino acids for normal functions, it also requires another essential nutrient that is often overlooked. Essential fatty acids (EFAs) are considered essential fats because they are required for health, but cannot be produced by the body. These fats, known as omega-3 and omega-6, are commonly called the “good fats.”

Hands down, children are deficient in the beneficial omega-3 fats (as are most Americans) and not the omega-6 fats. Kids consume excessive pro-inflammatory omega-6 fats from corn, soy, safflower and sunflower oils. An imbalance in the omega-6 to omega-3 ratio has been unequivocally proven to burden the body with excess inflammation. In kids, this has been linked to conditions such as eczema, asthma, allergies, and attention and behavioral problems.

Simply put, omega-3 fats are brain food. The brain is made up of 60 percent fat, half of which is the essential fatty acid DHA. Therefore, the type of fat consumed by children⎯especially during the developmental years⎯is of paramount importance. A child’s nervous system begins to form in the last trimester of pregnancy and continues to develop at a rapid rate until the age of seven. The essential omega-3 fats, primarily DHA, are required for adequate nervous system development. Research has shown DHA is especially important for brain and eye development. Getting enough EPA and DHA in the diet, particularly in children, is difficult because many children eat minimal fish and so many fatty fish are laden with mercury, PCBs and dioxin.

I have found that purified fish oil supplementation is the safest way to obtain the omega-3 fats EPA and DHA, without the environmental toxins. Fish oil has been shown to improve many conditions that affect children, including attention, learning, behavior and eye health.

Taste is the key to compliance for adults and children alike. If a kid likes the taste of a product, he will remind the parents to give it to him everyday. In my practice, I use Nordic Naturals Children’s DHA and Omega-3-6-9 Junior supplements. You can call Nordic Naturals and ask them to send you sample packets so that your kids can taste the product before you bring it home. There is nothing worse that spending $20-30, only to find out your child won’t take a product. Compliance will always be higher if it tastes good and a child has decided that he will take the product regularly.

Dr. Keri Marshall MS, ND is a licensed Naturopathic Doctor who specializes in holistic pediatrics and women’s medicine.

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