“Imagine, one nutrient, the “essential fatty acid” DHA, being able to improve your child’s mind, and consequently their abilities, for the rest of their life.” – Dr. Murray Clarke
A Child’s Growing Years
Infancy and childhood growth are very delicate times when children are literally under construction. They not only require food and nutrients to go about their daily activities but also to grow each day. As children develop and mature, we can look for ways to nourish their growth on many dimensions including their physical, emotional, mental and spiritual well-being. Each one of these aspects will affect the others as they are all intimately connected.
On a purely physical level, it is an infant’s and child’s food, nutrition and diet which will be the major factors in determining their strength, health and resilience. Contained within their foods are carbohydrates, fats, oils and proteins and within these are vitamins, minerals, fatty acids and amino acids. It is these vitamins, minerals, fatty acids, and amino acids, that become the raw materials, the actual building blocks that every cell, tissue and organ require to grow, develop and properly function in each child’s body and brain.
A Changing World
The dilemma that most parents are faced with in today’s world is two-fold:
On the one hand, it has become increasingly difficult to provide a child with all the essential nutrients they need through their food and diet. This is due to the fact that as the world’s soils have become depleted through modern farming methods and increased population demands, the foods grown on these mineral depleted soils have less nutrient content.
This situation is complicated by the over-manufactured, over-processed fast foods and junk foods that all children are exposed to and will likely partake of at some point due to peer pressure, curiosity and gatherings where it becomes more difficult for parents to control.
Adding to this conundrum is the degree of toxicity and pollution that each child is exposed to while growing up in any major city.
Looking at this, we realize that the amount of environmental toxicity actually increases the need for all essential nutrients to provide protection and detoxification. Understanding this paradigm, the significance and importance that vitamins, minerals, amino and fatty acids play in establishing and ensuring a child’s foundation of health truly becomes vital.
Over the past fifty years, as these vitamins, minerals, fatty acids and amino acids have been studied, researched and understood, they have become classified and known as the “Essential Nutrients” by the National Academy of Sciences.
The term “Essential” is not given lightly. Nutrients are only classified as “essential” when there has been enough research to conclusively show that they are extremely important and involved in many critical functions in our body and brains.
“Essential” also means that any lack of or deficiency in any one of these essential nutrients will have a consequence that might compromise both the development and functioning of a child’s body and brain.
“Essential” means essential for growth, essential for health, essential for life, to be fully expressed…the very building blocks of life itself.
Omega Oils: Omega 3 and 6 Essential Fatty Acids
The Omega 3 oils are derived primarily from fish and from flax seeds in the plant world. The Omega 6 oils are found in evening primrose and borage seeds.
When we look at the whole world of fats and oils, there are many misperceptions and misunderstandings about fats.
Fats have been given a bad reputation, but really, it should be understood that all fats in the right proportions are good and essential for health. The only fats that are inherently bad are the man-made trans-fatty acids that were created to extend the shelf life of various processed foods and should be avoided completely whenever possible. You’ll find these on the labels of most processed foods and margarines.
Both the Omega 3 and Omega 6 oils are intimately involved in regulating immune, communication and anti-inflammatory processes throughout the body. (J Nutr and Metabolism 2012)
They are the primary nutrients from which our “hardware”–the brain and central nervous system–is constructed. They are also the nutrients that make up our “software”, the prostaglandin/communication hormones which assist and facilitate communications between all of our bodies individual cells and organs.
Why are the Omega 3 oils so important for children?
We now know that 60% of the brain is made from, and runs on, fats and oils.
We also know now that 60% of these fats and oils is in one single fatty acid called DHA (Docosahexaenoic acid) (Schmidt M et al 97). So, the most important and prevalent nutrient that the brain requires to grow properly and to function properly is DHA.
Then, when we look at how the brain grows and develops, we see that most of the brain’s growth, the actual size, is completed by seven years of age. At birth, the brain’s weight is 70% of an adult, a further 15% of brain growth occurs during infancy and remaining brain growth takes place in the early school years. (J Dev Behav Pediatr 2011)
Understanding when and how the brain grows leads us to understanding how essential and important the right fats, oils, and DHA are in infancy and childhood to support this growth.
This is why we see studies like this one from J. Pediatrics, Jan 2003, illustrating that when mother’s supplemented their diet with Omega 3 DHA from Cod Liver Oil during pregnancy and while nursing their babies, it actually increased their child’s IQ by up to 4 points by the age of four.
There are many other studies showing the benefits of cod liver oil for children’s health issues such as upper respiratory tract infections that decreased pediatric visits by 35-58% (J Am Coll Nutr 2010) and ear aches requiring lower amounts of antibiotics (Ann Otol Rhinol Laryngol. 2002 Jul;111(7 Pt 1):642-52).
In fact, a recent research study showed that omega-3 fatty acids (OFAs) can both prevent and treat the inflammation and oxidative stress caused by air pollution, with the OFAs delivering a 30-50% reduction in harm. (Elsevier, 2017 March;1861(Issue 3):577-584).
Why is Cod Liver Oil the first choice for supplementing with Omega 3’s and DHA?
It turns out that many parents in many countries and cultures around the world must have intuitively known that Cod Liver Oil was the perfect brain and immune food for children. It was really the world’s first and original dietary supplement.
Now we know that Cod Liver Oil contains the highest naturally occurring concentration of DHA than any other food source. In addition, it contains Vit A (retinyl) that is important for the development of the eyes (retinas) and Vit D for healthy bone development.
From this one source of Cod Liver Oil, we can provide the primary nutrients required for brain growth, eye development and bone structure.
What is the Difference between Cod Liver Oil and Flaxseed Oil?
These are both Omega 3 oils but the primary difference is that Cod Liver Oil contains DHA that is ready to be absorbed and utilized by our bodies. The flaxseed Omega 3 oils need to be taken into our bodies and then converted into DHA.
This conversion requires other nutrients like Vitamin B3, magnesium and zinc. Depending on each child’s nutritional status and what is happening in their bodies that day, part of the flaxseed oil, may or may not be converted into the DHA and made available for use.
This is not to say that flaxseed oil is not another wonderful Omega 3 oil with many benefits, but it is this one aspect of DHA conversion that makes it different from Cod Liver Oil.
How to Select Your Child’s Supplement
The important qualities to be aware of in choosing to supplement your child with these oils is the cleanliness and purity of the oils.
You’re probably aware of mercury that has been found in fish, but there are also other metals in the oceans and fish such as arsenic and lead as well as chemicals including PCB’s and dioxins.
When supplementing your child with any fish oils or Cod Liver Oil, it is critical that the product and label state that it has been tested for these toxins. It must also indicate that it is purified and established to be free of detectable amounts of all of these substances. When choosing a Flaxseed oil, it should always be certified organic to ensure purity.
Cod Liver Oil Recommended Dosage:
For infants 6 months to 1 years: ½ teaspoon daily
For children 1-4 years: 1 teaspoon daily
For children 4-12 years: 1-2 teaspoons daily
As the studies show, Cod Liver Oil, providing the Omega 3 oils and DHA, can be given to support and nourish your child’s physical, emotional and mental well-being at all ages.
Ideally, it should be a part of every child’s daily routine.
About SafBaby’s Health Expert: Dr. Murray Clarke, ND., D.Hom., L.Ac.
Dr. Murray Clarke is a doctor of naturopathic medicine with licenses and doctorates in homeopathic medicine and Chinese medicine (including acupuncture and herbology) and is a leading homeopathic physician for children in the Los Angeles area. He is also the founder of ChildLife® Essentials and author of Natural Baby-Healthy Child: Alternative Health Care Solutions from Pre-conception Through Childhood.
Natural Baby-Healthy Child utilizes diet, environmental detoxification, nutritional supplementation and holistic modalities including homeopathy, naturopathy, osteopathy, chiropractic and acupuncture to help parents–from pre-conception to pregnancy, to the baby’s first year through childhood–make the right health decisions for themselves and their child, naturally. Natural Baby–Healthy Child is an essential medical road map that will help keep children firmly on the path to robust, long-term good health and the realization of the full potential of body, mind and soul. For more information, please visit NaturalBabyHealthyChild.com.
Find out more about Omega Oils
Which DHA Is Safe and Most Beneficial For Brain Development? A FAQ with SafBaby’s Health Expert Dr. Murray Clarke
Is Supplementing Baby Formula with DHA Necessary and Safe?
Why Our Children Need Supplements & Natural Immune Boosting Support
Pathways to Health, Creating Optimum Health for Your Child