Vitamins and Minerals

Omega Fats (Fish Oil) For Child Neurodevelopment

Science Center

What science says about Omega Fats (Fish Oil) For Child Neurodevelopment

Scientists and medical experts have different opinions on taking omega fatty acid for infant and child neurodevelopment.

For instance, some experts believe that omega fatty acid supplementation helps improve brain function and development in infants and children. This is because omega fatty acids like DHA help the brain grow and create new neural connections that are important for learning and memory.

Omega-3 fatty acids like EPA and DHA also help the retina develop and improve eye health in infants and children.

Multiple studies have shown that infants and children who ate more foods containing omega fatty acids or took omega fatty acid supplements displayed better brain and eye development. They could read, speak, and move around better than infants and children who had low levels of omega fatty acids in their bodies.

However, other medical experts argue that research on omega fatty acids for brain development in infants and children is contradictory. Some studies indicate that omega fatty acids have no effect on the brain or eye development in infants and children.

Thus, scientists call for more research to better understand how omega-3 helps boost neurodevelopment in infants and children.

Opinion in favor of taking omega-3 for infant and child neurodevelopment:

Supporters of omega fatty acid consumption for infant and child neurodevelopment believe that omega fatty acids play a vital role in helping infants’ and children’s brains and eyes develop properly.

They believe that omega fatty acids help improve neurodevelopment in infants and children because the fatty acids help stimulate language, and cognitive development, retinal development and visual acuity, and motor skills development.

Studies have shown that omega fatty acid supplementation helps improve brain function in children and infants. For instance, the review, “The relationship of docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) with learning and behavior in healthy children: a review, ”found that children who took omega-3 fatty acid supplements including DHA reported improvements in cognition, behavior, and school performance.

Debbie Drecksel, a Field Education Research & Content Specialist at Nordic Naturals, argues that omega-3 fatty acids like DHA are extremely important for boosting child brain and visual development.

She explains, “The most DHA in our body is actually in the retina of our eye, our brain has the second highest amount,” so DHA supplementation is important especially for children who are “picky” and are not “typically going to be eating seafood.”
Plus, studies show that infants and children who had low levels of omega fats in their diets had lower cognitive function than their peers and seemed to benefit from omega-3 supplementation.

One review, “Does Consumption of LC Omega-3 PUFA Enhance Cognitive Performance in Healthy School-Aged Children and throughout Adulthood? Evidence from Clinical Trials,” determined that omega-3 consumption, particularly DHA, was related to improved cognitive performance, memory, and learning.

Skeptical views about taking omega-3 for infant and child neurodevelopment:

Healthcare experts agree that infants and children need omega-3 in small amounts to maintain overall health and brain function.

However, some experts believe that omega-3 does not help improve brain and eye development in infants and children because the scientific evidence is contradictory.

Recent research shows that omega-3 fatty acids do not affect brain development in children. For example, the study, “Seven-Year Follow-up of Children Born to Women in a Randomized Trial of Prenatal DHA Supplementation,” found that DHA supplementation did not affect brain function or development in children seven years after their mothers took omega-3 supplements throughout their pregnancy.

For instance, Professor Paul Montgomery from the University of Birmingham argues that omega-3 supplements do not affect children’s memory or learning abilities.

Therefore, scientists are still skeptical of the claims suggesting that omega fatty acids help boost infant and child brain and eye development, since they don’t quite understand how omega fatty acids work to boost brain development. Accordingly, opponents of the use of omega fatty acids for infant and child neurodevelopment call for more research including longer clinical trials on the different omega fatty acids and their role in infant and child neurodevelopment.

Published: December 2020

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