Once again, it’s true that everything old is new again: cod liver oil, which skipped a generation in popularity, is back again. Although the research results are mixed, pediatricians and parents are enthusiastic about the possible benefits of giving kids a daily dose of fish oil — enclosed in a modern gel capsule for palatable consumption. Pharmacists say that sales of the supplement have boomed for all ages, particularly for children.
Since many children do not care for fish, they don’t reap the benefits from naturally occurring fish oil. So some parents who are concerned with their children’s cognitive and behavioral development give their kids a daily dose of fish oil supplements, which contains the omega-3 fatty acids docosahexaenoic, also known as DHA, and eicosapentaenoic, or EPA.
Pediatricians and other health professionals suggest fish oil supplements for a variety of reasons, most of which have to do with children’s behavioral issues. However, a child’s inability to focus, with or without a diagnosis of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD, may also send parents to the pharmacist for fish oil supplements to avoid the side effects of prescription medications. Other learning and developmental issues such as autism spectrum disorders and dyslexia may also be helped by fish oil supplements.
Types and Dosing
Picky kids may turn up their noses at plain fish oil, but drug manufacturers are coming up with a whole spectrum of alternatives, including chewy varieties that look and taste like gummy bears. Although dosage information is included with packaging, parents should verify the right dose for their children by consulting with the pediatrician. For safety, ensure that any vitamins be stored in a childproof chest or cupboard.
For children with problems severe enough to interfere with daily activities or school success, taking fish oil alone may not be that much help. In addition, parents who decide to put off seeking professional help while they try to see what kind of effect the fish oil will have may be losing valuable time. Often, disturbed kids will need counseling and/or medications to effect major improvement in their conditions.
Before parents make an independent decision to give their children fish oil supplements, they should check with the pediatrician. In addition to finding out if the doctor thinks fish oil is right for the child, parents need to be aware of possible side effects, such as an increased risk of bleeding. Not all fish oil labels disclose the levels of potentially harmful polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB) compounds, so parents should purchase fish oil supplements recommended by their pharmacist or pediatrician.