Enhancing Cognitive Function in School-Aged Children with Fish Oil
I have been doing lots of reading about fish oil lately as it seems that with all the trendy new things on the market that fish oil has been sadly forgotten or overlooked, which is sad as it is an essential nutrient (one we can't make ourselves) and is so important at all stages of life for growth, development, brain function and skin - it also highly anti-inflammatory and is one of my number 1 go to's for hormones, weight management, mood, gut repair, skin conditions and joint pain.
In my reading I stumbled across this great paper that reviews cognitive performance in healthy-school aged children; so you don't have to read it all I have summarized it below for you along with some information about fish oil supplements and how to test if you are deficient in Omega 3.
DOES OMEGA 3-PUFA ENHANCE COGNITIVE PERFORMANCE IN HEALTHY SCHOOL AGED CHILDREN?
During childhood it is critical to optimise brain development; throughout adulthood it is important to maintain development and during old-age it is important to defer cognitive decline.
Docosaehexaenoic acid (DHA) is the dominant omega-3 PUFA in the brain – regulating numerous neuronal and glial cell processes, DHA improves vascular tone resulting in increased cerebral blood flow during cognitive tasks, regulates the transport and uptake of glucose in the blood brain barrier, it is involved in gene expression and are precursors for neuroprotectins and resolvins that counteract neuro-inflammation, oxidative stress and increases neuronal survival.
EPA & ALA also contribute to brain function by facilitating fuel supply to the brain and a deficit in the brain can lead to a decline in a number of functions such as learning, memory, auditory and olfactory responses – these effects often being restored by repletion of dietary DHA.
Omega 3- DHA is an essential nutrient that the body cannot synthesize itself and is best derived from either seafood or algae. In Australia less then 30% of people consumed seafood on a regular basis, and in one survey only 21% of Australian children had consumed seafood over a 2 day period.
This review would suggest that regular consumption of Omega 3 (particularly DHA) may enhance many cognitive performance, such as memory and response time in those who are deficient, with improvement showing from 4 weeks onward and most impact at 16 weeks, this indicating the time it takes to replenish deficiencies.
4-8 year old boys/girls 400-350mg/d
9-13 year old boys/girls 480-510mg/d
14+ (including adults) 610g/d boys &men & 430mg/d girls & women
Best sources of Omega 3 – DHA
Omegas 3 a rich in oily fish such as sardines, anchovies, salmon & tuna.
Food vs supplement
In an ideal world where we consume regular foods rich in Omega 3s, less of the Omega 6s
(inflammatory oils found in many saturated/process fats and foods) our diet should be enough, however not many of us live in this ideal world and supplementation with a high quality fish oil is recommended.
Which fish oil should I take - I often recommend Nordic Naturals Arctic Cod Liver oil, it is rich in DHA, Vitamin A and Vitamin D, Nordic Naturals use a patented process that ensure lower toxins such as environmental pollutants, lead and mercury which can be found in many fish.
Please remember with fish oils you do get what you pay for so don’t compromise by purchasing a cheaper brand; not all companies are certified to the high standard that Nordic Naturals are.
HOW TO KNOW IF YOUR DEFICIENT – TESTING?
The best way to know is by carrying out a Functional Test called a Holmon Omega 3 Test $119.00 (Test price only – does not include consultation time)
This is a Simple Blood spot test that you can do in the comfort of your own home and sent to a lab for analysis. Once the results come back from the lab (which usually takes 3-4 weeks) you will be able to see your total Omegas including your Omega 3, Omega 6 and also the DHA, EPA & ALA.
Other signs that you may be deficient in your Omega 3’s include dry eyes, sore joints, dry brittle nails and hair, small red bumps on your arms and legs, dry cracked skin, dry flaky scalp.
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W.Stonehouse (2014), Does Consumption of LC Omega-3 PUFA Enhance Cognitive Performance in Healthy School-Aged Children and throughout Adulthood? Evidence in Clinical Trials; Nutrients 6(7): 2730-2758