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Should I Give My Child Omega-3 Fish Oil Supplements?

If your child is not eating a meal of fatty fish like salmon or sardines at least once a week then it is a good idea to give him a daily fish oil supplement. Oily fish includes salmon, mackerel, sardines, trout, eel, pilchards and fresh tuna and if your child eats a meal with one of these fish once or twice a week then he will probably receive the level of omega-3 fatty acids his body requires. Popular fishy meals that kids like are fish sticks and canned chunk light tuna but they are not a good source of omega-3s although they are low in mercury.  Solid white albacore is a type of canned tuna that contains a higher dose of omega-3s but it usually is higher in mercury content so some experts recommend that children avoid it.

Fish oil contains omega-3 fatty acids (specifically DHA and EPA) which are required for your child’s optimum brain and eye development and experts claim that they play a significant role in improving intelligence, memory, co-ordination and enhancing your child’s concentration skills at school.

Ideally it is better for your child to get all his nutrients from his meals as he will benefit from the nutrients in other foods at the same time. However, many children do not eat enough of the right fatty fish that contain the desired levels of omega-3s and especially if you are trying to avoid fish with high levels of mercury. Cold water fish often referred to as fatty fish contain the highest amounts of omega-3s.

The capsule supplements are not a good idea to give your child as they pose a choking risk but you can easily purchase the liquid form. It is very important that you check you are buying highly pure oil from the flesh of fish, not from the livers as these can contain harmful toxins and excessive levels of vitamin A. Your child may not like the fishy taste of the liquid supplement so there are varieties that disguise the fishiness with citrus and vanilla flavours. You can blend the supplement with milk or a juice too. Begin with a low dose at a meal time so one teaspoon a day for a week and then you can increase this to two to three teaspoons per day if your child is willing. There are no known side effects.

If your child is not eating the servings of fatty fish listed below at least once a week then a supplement is recommended.

•    1-2 years old – 1 ounce of fatty fish
•    3-6 years old – 1.5 ounces of fatty fish
•    6 years plus – 2 ounces of fatty fish

By Eirian Hallinan

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