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DHA as A Brain Food for Children

DHA as A Brain Food for Children

Parents always have high expectations for their children and wish for a bright future. They would dedicate not only love but also all possible resources for their children’s well-being. If parents spoil their kids too much and allow them to do whatever they want, such as letting them eat the food they like, they may become picky eaters. According to a children’s eating habit survey done by the Chinese University of Hong Kong, only 40% of parents believe their children are not fussy eaters.


An unbalanced diet could cause critical problems for the brain, eyes, and central nervous system development during infanthood and childhood because the brain grows at a swift rate throughout the first years of life. Poor nutrients intake could result in poor learning ability.


DHA has gained much attention over the years because it is a vital nutrient for the development of the brain, eyes and central nervous system. It is a polyunsaturated omega-3 fatty acid, which is the primary structural component for brain tissue and nerve cell. DHA makes up a large portion of the brain and the retinas of the eyes.

Deficiency of DHA could cause a negative impact to the development of these organs. Clinical studies show that low or insufficient amount would affect the memory and concentration of children, which may contribute to certain behavioral problems and mood disorders. Studies reveal that babies have better mental and visual function with higher DHA level. Since DHA is an essential fatty acid, which our body cannot synthesize, it is necessary to get it from diet. Many infant formulas are now supplemented with DHA. Unfortunately, their DHA level tends to decrease when children are weaned from breast milk or formula to solid foods. Other natural food sources of DHA include salmon, herring, sardines, anchovies, algae, vegetable oils, and organ meats.


Another rich source of DHA is flaxseed. It is a good choice for vegetarians as a derived source of essential fats. When looking for children’s DHA supplements, experts agree that quality and safety are the most important factors to consider. Since there are tons of brands of DHA available in the market, choosing the right one is important. There are two things parents need to pay attention to when choosing the best DHA supplements for their kids – quantity and purity. For quantity, children need less DHA than adults do. A high omega 3 concentration doesn’t mean it is the best choice. The recommendation of Omega 3 is shown as below.


Recommended dosage/day







Source: University of Connecticut. USA


Another concern of choosing DHA supplements is purity because of fish contamination. Make sure the fish oil have been refined through molecular distillation to remove any remaining toxins like mercury or lead that are absorbed from the polluted ocean waters. Since this is a complex and expensive process, only a few companies use this method, so be aware of these problems and check the label with care. In addition, combination of extra supplements of EPA may cause harm for children since too much EPA may upset the development balance. If your child is on blood thinning medication, he/she is not suitable for taking DHA supplements since it can increase bleeding times.


Healthy Tips:

  • Limit fish intake, avoid over-consumption of omega 3.
  • Read the label (to check the amount of DHA) before buying DHA supplements.
  • Make sure the products are purified.
  • Pay attention to the mercury contamination.
  • Children consuming 3oz of salmon (1800 mg) have already reached the limit of Omega 3 intake per week.
  • Over-consumption may lead to bleeding because fish oil may affect the blood clotting function.
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