Fish Oil improves Reading Level in Children

Dr. Jennifer Luis, B.Sc., B.Ed., N.D.

Dr. Jennifer Luis, B.Sc., B.Ed., N.D.

Many adults have terrible memories of their mothers forcing them to drink down a spoonful of cod liver oil as children. However, you should be thanking your mothers because brain development was likely improved due to that delicious spoonful!

Nowadays, fish oil comes in so many different flavours (lemon, mango, green apple…) and with the choice of liquid or capsules everyone can find something that works for them.In my family, we prefer capsules over a liquid teaspoon however many people happily drink down the oil or add it to their morning smoothies. My favourite trick for not getting the fish oil burb backs is to keep the capsules in the freezer and take frozen. This way, the capsule gets far enough down the digestive system that when it becomes liquid, there are no fishy burbs!

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A new study was published in the UK which examined levels of Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) present in the blood of 493 healthy 7-9 year-old children. DHA is one of the most important components found in fish oil and is associated with brain and eye health and development. The study found that those children with lower levels of DHA had a correlated below-average level of reading and comprehension (for a discussion of the full study, click here. It is common for pregnant women to include fish oil in their prenatal regimes to help with the nervous system, brain and eye development of a growing baby. Many parents give their toddlers and children fish oil daily to provide continuous support with growth and development as it is difficult to get enough in the diet alone. This study also observed the effects of supplementing with 600mg DHA daily to children with reading scores in the lower 20th percentile. A significant benefit was noted in reading scores in just 4 months. Another benefit of note in the study was significant improvements in the behaviour of these children. Fish oil with a high ratio of DHA is commonly given to children exhibiting attention-deficits and other behavioural concerns as part of a treatment plan when visiting naturopathic doctors.

Fish oil also benefits the eyes of people of all ages. Blurred vision and dry eyes can be the result of fatty acid deficiencies. Supplementing with a high DHA Omega 3 product can result in a diminishment of symptoms in as little as a few weeks. Dietary sources of DHA are sea-derived. Salmon is the highest DHA food on the list, followed by anchovies, herring, sardines and caviar/fish roe. The only quality vegetarian source is sea algae. Although walnuts, flaxseed and tofu contain Omega 3s, they do not have the DHA component. For strict vegetarians, the company Ascenta has a vegan-source liquid supplement that has utilized sea algae.

When looking for a fish oil to purchase, it is very important to ensure quality and testing is a top priority. If the oil is not routinely tested for impurities such as heavy metals and they are not removed, you will not reap the benefits. I regularly tell my adult patients to aim for 600mg of DHA and 1,000mg of EPA (the other important Omega 3 component) per day. Only in high quality brands such as Ascenta and NFH can these levels be achieved with 1 teaspoon or 2 capsules. However, it is best to seek professional advice on the dose that is ideal for you as there may be reasons for either going higher or lower then what I have recommended above. Ascenta and NFH are both fish oils that we carry at Vitalia Health Care and have regularly in-stock.

In health,

Dr. Jennifer Luis BSc, BEd, ND.

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