Food for Thought: Nutrition for a Better Brain

September 11, 2010
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Essential fatty acids, particularly omega-3 fatty acids, are essential for a reason—they’re actual structural components of all neural cells. In other words, they’re part of the brain’s building blocks. Because the body can’t manufacture this nutrient on its own, fatty acids have to be obtained through food and dietary supplements. This is especially important for developing babies and children whose diets often don’t include omega-3–rich fish.

Scientists and doctors are beginning to explore the role omega-3s like DHA play in the cognitive development of children. DHA is vital to both the nervous system and visual functions (particularly the development of the retina), especially during gestation and in the first few years of life. Infants receive DHA in the womb and through breast milk, provided the mother has enough in her own diet. Experts now think adequate DHA intake could have a positive effect on curbing ADD and ADHD symptoms.

While the human body can convert ALA—another omega-3 that is found in plants like flax oil and evening primrose—into DHA, it’s much less efficient than ingesting DHA in its whole form from fish. That’s why so many doctors are recommending that patients of all ages take a fish-oil supplement that will provide them with the brain boost they need.

So how do you ensure your children are receiving enough DHA throughout the important stages of cognitive development? Once they’re weaned from breast milk, our practitioners often recommend Nordic Naturals’ Children’s DHA. “Most kids comply with them just fine because they taste good and are easy to swallow,” says Asia Real, a certified nutritionist at our Pacific Palisades store.

“Nordic also has phenomenal standards for cleanliness,” adds Real. That’s especially important to parents concerned about mercury content in their fish oil: Nordic’s special distillation process ensures that all heavy metals are removed from the final product, and third-party testing continues to confirm Nordic’s purity.

Nordic Naturals’ Children’s DHA is sold in chewable, soft gels and liquid form, both of which are infused with strawberry essence to make the cod liver oil palatable for little taste buds. Though DHA intake is important in the first few years of life, Real encourages parents to consult with their pediatrician before starting a fish-oil regimen with kids under 3 years.

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