What’s The Scoop on Fish Oil For Kids?

fish oil for kids

Fish oil is widely praised as one of the most important natural supplements you can take, but what about for kids? It’s natural to take extra precaution when using any supplement with children; however, fish oil can be an extremely safe and vital source of Omega 3 that many kids simply would not get via dietary sources alone. Ever try to get a kid to voluntarily eat a healthy serving salmon, anchovies or sardines at least once a week?

Please read on for more information about what fish oil can do for your loved ones and how to go about providing it.

Why Give Fish Oil to Kids?

As discussed for use with adults generally, fish oil is widely accepted as being a potent supplement for promoting heart/cardiovascular health. However, in addition to lowering blood pressure, reducing blood triglycerides, treating arthritis and being effective for a variety of more “grown-up” problems, there are some very important potential benefits for children that are believed to exist, but don’t currently have quite the same level of scientific evidence to back them up.

Although there are many salutary aspects of taking Omega 3, perhaps the most relevant potential benefits for fish oil supplementation for kids relate to improving mental health and fostering strong neurological and brain/eye development. Specifically, it is believed that fish oil enhances mental acuity and reduces hyperactivity when taken at the appropriate dosages. It has also been found by some to treat asthma, skin allergies, depression and a wide variety of other childhood psychological conditions, including A.D.H.D.

Of course, there are many reputable sources that question these purported benefits.  For example, a 2001 study conducted by the Mayo Clinic found that no improvement of A.D.H.D was achieved after four months of supplementation. Nevertheless, other researchers and medical professionals point to more recent data that do tend to support fish oil’s efficacy in terms of enhancing/treating mental health, such as a 2005 Oxford study reported in the Journal of Pediatrics that found significant improvements in spelling and reading ability after children received treatment with fish oil. This is not an isolated case. A more recent study by Oxford University discussed in the DailyMail seems to confirm and support these results, finding an improvement in reading age in some of the worst performing school students between the ages of seven and nine.

Is Fish Oil Safe For Kids?

There is a lot of apparent controversy among blogs and other web sources on this topic, but some of the most reputable authorities widely agree that fish oil supplement is safe – and considerably less risky than obtaining Omega 3 through dietary sources alone.

The reason for this is because the common fatty fish which are particularly rich in Omega 3 (e.g., salmon, mackerel, swordfish,  anchovies, etc.) tend to concentrate more chemical contaminants relative to other species, primarily Mercury.  As such, high levels of consumption of these types of fish raise concerns not typically found when taking fish oil supplements at typical doses. For example, the Mayo Clinic’s literature on fish oil states “safety concerns may apply to eating fish, but likely not to taking fish oil supplements.” Likewise, the FDA advises that EPA and DHA dietary supplements are safe and lawful, when taken at moderate doses, i.e., one to three grams per day.

On the other hand, fish that don’t raise as much concern about Mercury contamination – and which are often more palatable for kids – such as cod/flounder filets, canned tuna/albacore, and other white meat fish don’t provide the requisite amount of Omega 3.  Consequently, a good fish oil supplement is often the most practical option for delivering sufficient levels of EPA and DHA to kids.

Whatever you do, you should always consult with and obtain approval from your child’s treating physician before treating your child with fish oil. As we’ve explained elsewhere, there are a variety of side effects reported for fish oil, particularly when taken at higher doses.

Specially Made – Tastier – Fish Oil For Kids

Ok, so fish oil has profound heath benefits for kids, and it’s safe for kids – arguably safer than getting the same amount of Omega 3 from fatty fish.  But there’s just one thing, it’s not tasty and the large pills and fishy flavors and smells of adult-oriented fish oil are sure to turn many kids off.

Fortunately, there is a large variety of fish oil supplements especially made for kids. These oils often come in liquids or gummy vitamin form, and are flavored with citrus or other more palatable tastes/odors that will prevent your child from rejecting them, and may have them asking for more.

Fish Oil Dosage For Kids

Currently there is no broad consensus about general child-specific dosages of fish oil supplement, while some sources indicate that the conservative, adult fish oil dosage indications can be applied. Consequently, a medical professional should always be consulted when planning a supplementation regimen. Nevertheless, there are some specific dose recommendations for kids, which address conditions like childhood asthma, A.D.H.D and skin allergies.

Featured (top) photo credit: “Kids playing” by Nir Nussbaum under CC BY-ND 2.0

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