Omega 3 Fatty Acids: A Happy Mind and a Happy Body

Omega 3 Fatty Acids: A Happy Mind and a Happy Body

Omega 3 Fatty Acids:  A Happy Mind and A Happy Body

Why are Omega-3 Fatty Acids important?

The American diet is not only lacking in essential Omega-3’s but is also heavy in saturated and trans fat. Omega-3’s are fatty acids with a special bond at their 3rd carbon.  Due to their structure, they increase the fluidity of each cell’s outer membrane and thus allow each cell to function optimally. There is plentiful evidence that Omega-3’s decrease your risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, cancer, arthritis, allergies, diabetes, psychosis, eye disease and much more. Omega-3’s came into fashion for their cardiovascular effects, yet studies in the last decade affirm their benefit to the central nervous system.  In fact, Omega-3’s are now supplemented in infant formulas to aid in brain development. Over the years I have observed an increasing number of respected neurologists and primary care doctors prescribe omega 3 fish oil as a first line treatment for concussion, memory problems, attention deficit disorder, bipolar mood disorder, depression, and behavior issues.

There are three omega 3 Fatty Acids:

Alpha linoleic acid (ALA) is the most abundant but least effective.  It is most commonly found in plants such as canola and flax seed.

Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) are readily used by the body (unlike ALA), are found in seafood and not commonly in the American diet.  EPA and DHA are often given in supplements. To avoid mercury toxicity, labels on these supplements should read: molecularly distilled, mercury and heavy metals have been eliminated, or US Pharmacopeial Convention (USP) grade. Most children tolerate Barlean’s Omega Swirl well and I often recommend this brand since there are many flavors to choose from.

How to introduce Omega-3 fatty acids into a child’s diet without supplementation:

Try baking rich Omega-3 fatty acid fish in teriyaki, barbecue or flavors your kids like with other proteins.  Use this link from to reference the amount of Omega-3 fatty acids in each serving of fish that you cook.  If your kids aren’t into fish try adding a teaspoon of flaxseed oil to a smoothie or practically anything with almond or peanut butter.  You can also add ground flaxseeds to muffins, lasagna, casseroles, soups and even breadcrumbs before baking chicken.

The current Recommended Adequate Intake of Omega-3s for kids are:

  • 0 to 12 months: 0.5 grams/day
  • 1 to 3 years: 0.7 grams/day
  • 4 to 8 years: 0.9 grams/day
  • 9 to 13 years (boys): 1.2 grams/day
  • 9 to 13 years (girls): 1.0 grams/day
  • 14 to 18 years (boys): 1.6 grams/day
  • 14 to 18 years (girls): 1.1 grams/day

As a dosing example, my son who is 2 years old needs 0.7 grams per day of DHA and EPA. I use Barlean’s Key Lime Omega Swirl which has 1.5 grams of DHA/EPA per 15 ml (1 tablespoon). I, therefore, give him approximately 7.5 ml (a little under 2 teaspoons). Remember that 720 mg = 0.7 g which is the serving for most of the Barlean’s flavors. On the other hand, when I give him salmon I give him 3 ounces to meet this daily amount.

To meet the daily needs of Omega-3 fats for kids, try these food sources:

  • Salmon
  • Sardines
  • Mackerel
  • Fresh tuna
  • Trout
  • Herring
  • Halibut
  • Oysters
  • Shrimp
  • Beef
  • Flaxseeds
  • Walnuts
  • Chia seeds
  • Soy beans

Eggs, milk, and yogurt are commonly fortified with omega-3 fats and can be used as well.

*NIH Office of Dietary Supplements: “Omega-3 Fatty Acids and Health” and UpToDate: “Fish oil and marine omega-3 fatty acids”


Key References

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Dr. Aviva Alyeshmerni, known by her patients as Dr. Vivi, graduated with honors in Biological Sciences from Stanford University in 1998. Dr. Vivi graduated from New York University’s affiliated medical school program at Tel Aviv University, Israel. After returning to the University of California, Irvine, to complete her Pediatric Residency, she spent six months working and carrying out research at the Orthopedic Surgical Hospital of Los Angeles. Since 2009, while working in Orange County, Dr. Vivi has been applying her experience in Sports Medicine as she pursues her passion for Pediatrics.