Essential development takes place during childhood, including brain development. This is not only affected by the child’s environment, but also by the quality of the diet. Children need to be provided with a nutrient-rich diet that can meet the needs of their growth and development. The essential fatty acid DHA is a vital nutrient for brain functioning and there is some evidence linking poor intake of essential omega 3 fatty acids to the following conditions: dyslexia, dyspraxia and other learning disorders.
One interesting study in young dyslexic adults found that those who had impaired vision in the dark improved this sense after being supplemented with the essential fatty acid DHA. This is due to the essential fatty acids required for the retina and nerve processes. Furthermore, long-term supplementation with DHA and other oils (evening primrose and thyme) improved the motor skills of the subjects*.
Attention deficit / hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and other behavioural disorders The causes of ADHD in children are thought to be biological and multi-factorial. The application of omega 3 essential fatty acids in the diet and the effect on metabolism could offer important new approaches to the management of these disorders.
Preliminary research suggests a key role for dietary factors, including omega 3 supply. Differences in the levels of essential fatty acids in the blood composition have been noticed in children with ADHD (mainly a lower level of omega 3). Studies have shown the effect of supplementing children with omega 3 has some positive results**. These studies demonstrate that a change in the child’s diet, including omega 3 supplementation, can indeed affect behaviour for the better.
The emerging relationship between asthma and diet is the focus of much attention at present, as there may be further benefits to be gained with the consumption of omega 3 essential fatty acids and oil-rich fish. For example, eighteen month-old infants who had been taking omega 3 supplements had less symptoms of asthma, such as wheezing***. This protective effect has been witnessed in other similar studies, and there is yet to be more studies published on this topic.