Omega-3 fatty acids – why is fish oil good for children?

Omega-3 for children – For good development right from the start

Of course, our grandparents and parents at home had fish on the table at least once a week. And there was a good reason for this: Omega-3 fatty acids have to be ingested through food for healthy development. They cannot be formed by the organism, but they are immensely important for organs, cells, bones, brain and brain power. Our current diet, which is based more on cereals and meat, often does not meet the required needs. Children and adolescents eat less and less fish and vegetables and can slide into an omega-3 deficiency. The German Nutrition Society points out that the supply of omega-3 fatty acids, even in adults, is not optimal.[1]

Omega-3 relevant for the child before birth

In particular, the fatty acid DHA, a main component of omega-3, promotes the development of the fetus and the development of all organs in the womb. It is beneficial for neuronal functions and eyesight. A healthy diet of the mother with fish and oils that are rich in omega-3 fatty acids provides the fetus with good care during pregnancy. However, linseed oil or omega-3 fatty acids from linseed oil should be avoided during pregnancy. Because it only has a short storage period and in a rancid state the oil can be harmful to health and can even trigger premature birth.

Omega-3 in the first years of life

Even in the first years after birth, care should be taken to ensure that the children are adequately supplied with omega-3 fatty acids. This is transported through breast milk at the very beginning – provided the mother eats accordingly – later on through food with fish meals and oils, e.g. Rapeseed, soy and walnut oils, these oils also contain the valuable fats. If the children are big enough, they should get a fish meal at least once a week. The fish types can switch between salmon, herring and mackerel – all of these are fish with plenty of omega-3 fatty acids.

Omega 3 in children from 4 years

Of course, this also applies to the time from the age of 4 to adolescence, when the body is still in the development phase. At the latest in adolescence, it often stops with healthy eating. Numerous studies have shown that there can be a particular deficiency of omega-3 during this period. In growth age, omega-3 continues to ensure healthy mental and physical development. Many sugary foods, ready meals in school kitchens and popular fast food chains do not ensure an adequate supply of omega-3. It is important to consume enough omega-3 in this phase of life. The brain needs an adequate supply of all nutrients for learning, increasing pressure to perform, increased stress and concentration.

In a study, Mexican researchers showed that children with malnutrition by adding omega 3 showed positive results after only three months. In most cases, they showed Improvements in neuropsychic functions. The ability to concentrate and the ability to remember developed positively. A daily intake of 300 mg omega-3 met the need and led to improved performance. [2] A persistent undersupply of omega-3 fatty acids is also associated with the development of allergies. Poor wound healing and an increased susceptibility to infections can also be observed in the case of deficiency care.

Daily need for omega-3 fatty acids

Age range daily requirement EPA / DHA
1 year olds and under 100mg DHA
Children between 2 and 18 250mg EPA / DHA
pregnant woman 450mg EPA / DHA

Symptom improvement with omega-3 in ADHD

Children are often increasingly unconcentrated and fidgety these days. More and more of them are diagnosed with “ADHD”, the fidget philipp syndrome. ADHD children find it difficult to switch off due to the regulatory disorders and the upset behavior, ”writes Professor Dr. med. C. von Schacky. He gives valuable tips on how one could possibly counter drug therapy. In his report "ADHD in children – causal treatment with omega-3 fatty acids" he presents interesting results. [3] “Several independent studies have shown that children with ADHD have low levels of omega-3 fatty acids and that increasing these levels by increasing the intake of omega-3 fatty acids eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) alleviates the key symptoms of ADHD. After increased intake of omega-3 fatty acids, distractibility and restlessness are reduced and the mood is stabilized, with the improvement of symptoms usually taking place in step with the increase in the levels of EPA and DHA. In general, long-chain unsaturated fatty acids such as EPA and DHA are the basic building block for a healthy development of brain functions, especially in children. ”Therefore, the specialist advises a fish-rich diet or, alternatively, a dietary supplement with omega-3 fatty acids. [4] However, due to the high levels of pollution in fish, a fish-rich diet is rather difficult today, which is why Omge-3 capsules are recommended more and more, which are cleaned and free of pollutants.

Omega-3 relieves asthma – even in childhood

Current estimates assume that 7-10% of children have bronchial asthma. This chronic inflammatory disease of the respiratory tract is manifested by shortness of breath and coughing due to narrowed bronchi. A new study gives hope that fish oil could be a natural remedy for discomfort. The effect of fish oil on the function of the immune cells has been investigated and it has been found that omega-3 fatty acids could counteract the negative effects of asthma. Scientists took blood samples from adult asthma patients who received high-purity omega-3. The researchers then isolated the B lymphocytes from the blood samples in order to determine the effect of omega-3 on so-called IgE antibodies. These antibodies are involved in allergies. The investigations showed that all participants reacted more or less to the omega-3 dose. This was demonstrated by a lower level of IgE.

According to the researchers, the fish oil supplements used in the study consisted of a special, particularly high-quality composition. 6

Relief of neurodermatitis with omega-3

Studies have also shown that inflammatory skin diseases, which often develop in childhood, such as neurodermatitis, can improve symptoms. Atopic eczema, called neurodermatitis, is not curable but treatable. The symptoms of eczema are red, scaly, often large-scale eczema that itch and sometimes wet. The treatment of this disease usually consists of intensive skin care to combat the associated dryness and the use of anti-inflammatory agents. In the past few years, treatment with omega-3 fatty acids has been successful in neurodermatitis patients. Their effects on regeneration and cell production ensure that inflammation is less developed and can even recede. 7

Symptoms of omega-3 deficiency in children

But there are also numerous other physical symptoms associated with an omega-3 deficiency. The following signs can occur:

  • dry skin, hair and brittle nails,
  • stunted growth,
  • allergy inclination,
  • susceptibility to infection,
  • limited vision in the dark,
  • Difficulty falling asleep and staying asleep,
  • emotional hypersensitivity,
  • Difficulty maintaining attention 8 9

Omega-3 strengthens the organism even with the smallest

The valuable omega-3 fatty acids affect metabolism, the immune system, muscles, bones and joints, skin and hair, heart and circulation, and the brain and psyche. So ultimately summarized on the overall organism of children. The omega-3 fatty acid DHA is particularly responsible for maintaining metabolic functions. It is mainly found in the cell membranes of the nerve cells, in the retina and in the brain. Incidentally, DHA also promotes cognitive skills in old age. It is even believed that it can prevent dementia, affect a person’s psyche and alleviate symptoms of depression, bipolar disorder 10, or attention deficit disorder (ADHD). Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) also plays a role in many metabolic processes. It is essential for a well-functioning immune system. These hormone-like substances also play a role in blood clotting and blood pressure regulation, the regulation of heartbeat and wound healing. Eicosanoids also have anti-inflammatory properties. As a result, they can reduce symptoms and the development of skin diseases such as acne or psoriasis. Which is particularly important for young people. 10

Omega-3 capsules as an alternative to fish

If regular nutrition through children does not work, high-quality food supplements from the age of 4 can be an alternative. Under four years of age, fish oil capsules should only be given in supplement form on the recommendation of a doctor. If food supplements are considered as an alternative in principle, the quality of products should be in the foreground – a look at content and origin can clarify. There are numerous offers in all price categories on the market. But be careful: Many have only a small proportion of the valuable omega-3 fatty acids. With good products, the fish content should be at least 95%. An indication of which fish was used is also helpful: tuna, salmon and cod, for example, are large fish, because of their long lifespan they have already consumed many pollutants such as microplastics, heavy metals and environmental toxins. Small fish are more recommended, e.g. Anchovies that are particularly fat for their size. However, fish from northern seas such as the Baltic Sea or the North Pacific and the region around Japan should be avoided because these marine areas are particularly contaminated or overfished. If the manufacturers are so transparent that they reveal something about the type of catch, so much the better. The fish should not have been caught in trawls. These details include important details that indicate good products.

Composition of omega-3 – you have to pay attention to this

Not only the origin and the type of fish are important, but the actual composition of the product. The fish as a supplier of omega-3 fatty acids contains the biologically long-chain fats DHA and EPA. In addition to the concentrated fish fats, many capsules primarily contain vitamin E. This prevents the fatty acids from oxidizing, i.e. becoming bad. However, according to research, 1-2 percent vitamin E is sufficient. Some manufacturers advertise a high percentage of vitamin E – but this is not necessary at all. In addition, attention should not only be paid to a high amount of fish oil, but in particular to the proportion of the valuable omega-3 fatty acids DHA and EPA. Many omega-3 capsules disguise the percentage of highly concentrated fatty acids by writing out a high level of fish oil, but the value of omega-3 fatty acids is more important.

Linseed oil as an alternative to fish oil in children?

It is said that linseed oil also contains the valuable fatty acids, could it be used as an alternative to fish in children? Not really, just as a supplement. Linseed oil is rich in omega-3 fatty acids, but these omega-3 fatty acids differ from those in fish. Flax seeds contain the fatty acid alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), while fish contain the two fatty acids eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). ALA, the linolenic acid, must first be converted into EPA and DHA before it can develop the full health potential of omega-3 fatty acids in the body. However, our organism only converts this to 5-10%, so that a large amount of ALA is necessary to also increase the level of EPA and DHA.

How much omega-3 should a child take??

Can a child get too much omega-3 fatty acids? This is the question many mothers face. However, side effects of omega-3 fatty acids are not known. In today’s diet, the more omega-3 the better. A recommendation for adults is 250 mg omega-3 (EPA & DHA) daily. And this with a normal Omega-3 value in the blood. If there is an undersupply, more unsaturated fatty acids should of course be consumed. Unfortunately, there is no specific recommendation from official authorities for children. However, EFSA (European Food Safety Authority) says that up to 5 g EPA and DHA are safe every day.


If it is not possible for children and adolescents to eat fish regularly, but we want to do something preventive or accompanying symptoms to optimize nutrition, dietary supplements can also be an alternative for children. There are now also omega-3 products especially for children who have particularly small capsules and are easier to swallow. However, good quality should always be ensured: where do the fish oils come from and what is actually contained in which concentration. What is the TOTOX value, which indicates the degree of freshness in the fish oil and from which fish is the fish oil product made?.

And: Of course, dietary supplements never replace a sufficiently balanced diet and a healthy lifestyle.

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Christina Cherry
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