Kids Need Omegas!
Yes, spoiler alert, kids do need omegas. To fuel their optimal growth and function, they need omegas more than most adults do.
For busy caregivers with no time to read the whole article, jump to the Summary.
Omegas Help Brain and Body Function
These special kinds of polyunsaturated fatty acids include LA and AA (types of omega-6s), and ALA and DHA (types of omega-3s). These fatty acids combine to make fat molecules essential for neurological development and brain function, especially in infancy and early childhood. For example, both AA omega-6 and DHA omega-3 build up in a child’s brain and retina during development before birth. They each play important roles in our bodies and health throughout our lifetimes.
If mom’s pregnancy and lactation diet is rich in omegas, omega-3 and -6 fatty acids will naturally be supplied in human milk and these fatty acids will continue to accumulate in the brain and build its structure through early infancy. Since long-term deprivation of these fatty acids has been shown to affect visual and cognitive acuity and development, a range of omegas can now be found in some infant formulas and can also be supplied separately to babies, if needed.
The omega-6 fatty acid AA is also the material the body uses and transforms to eventually produce a huge variety of hormones, as well as the master mediator compounds of our cells (eicosanoids like prostaglandins, thromboxanes and leukotrienes). That makes AA incredibly important, but the way to ensure continued ingestion of this fatty acid is by consuming its precursor, LA. This omega fat is critical for proper development and maturation during childhood through adolescence, as well as for continued overall good health.
Why Kids Need Linoleic Acid (LA)
For more than half a century, we have known that linoleic acid (LA) is an essential fatty acid that the body cannot make. This omega-6 is the parent fatty acid for arachidonic acid (AA). We know that it is crucial to eat large quantities of LA to avoid health problems, and if we get enough LA, even topically, we then make enough AA.
AA in turn is the primary structural building block of white matter in the brain. It is also a precursor of the master physiological regulator compounds that direct our microcirculation and regulate inflammation and cell signalling. As a major component of cell membranes, AA omega-6 also affects their flexibility, permeability, and enzymes. Sounds important, right?
LA was discovered to be essential by giving infants skim milk lacking in LA. The poor babies rapidly developed diarrhea and dry, inflamed skin. A study with 428 infants soon showed that the skin problems could be reversed if the babies received LA in their diets. The improvements were dose-dependent, with more dietary LA making better improvements. A little bit of LA reduced the skin symptoms to 40% and a larger dose completely prevented the problems. Conclusions drawn from studies tracking both skin and diarrhea symptoms determined that giving 2 or 3 times more LA could prevent the unwanted symptoms.
Where to get it: LA is a healthy omega-6 in Udo’s Oil Omega 3+6+9 Blend and in Udo’s DHA 3+6+9 Blend. It is also in nuts and seeds, including flax, but this essential fatty acid is not found in fish, fish oil, krill oil or algae oil. While LA is found in commercial cooking oils, like canola and soy, these can be damaged, unusable forms that create harmful oxidative stress and make it harder to use our good omega fats, and thus are best avoided.
Why Kids Need Alpha-linolenic Acid (ALA)
Substantial data supports the essentiality of dietary ALA. It is the only member of the omega-3 family that is considered to be essential, and like the LA mentioned above, we must get ALA in our diet, as we cannot make it. ALA is used in the membrane of every cell in the body, just like LA and AA, and we need this omega-3 fatty acid α-linolenic acid to function as a parent fatty acid in the omega-3 pathway.
ALA consumption itself is specifically shown to be helpful for the cardiovascular system, including supporting healthy vascular tone, heart rate, blood lipid levels, blood pressure, and reducing hardening of the arteries. ALA is also protective against inflammation, including neuro-inflammation. While these may seem like adult issues that do not obviously affect children, cardiovascular and cognitive health issues begin in childhood and become demonstrably more serious after many years.
Numerous studies have shown that fatty streaks develop in the aorta in childhood and progress to the coronary arteries after age 12. These cardiovascular changes arise independently of gender, race or national origin and can lead to more advanced stages of atherogenesis (such as plaques or lesions) later. Consuming plenty of ALA should be a priority for long term health.
ALA is converted by enzymes into the long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acid docosahexaenoic acid, or DHA. DHA is recognized to be a crucial fatty acid important to eye and brain health, supporting cognitive health and performance, memory, and focus, and for those with struggles in these areas, or with blood sugar dysregulation or ADHD, extra DHA is indicated.
Where to get it: ALA can be found in Udo’ Oil Omega 3+6+9 Blend or Udo’s DHA 3+6+9 Blend, or in other plant sources like sacha inchi or flax, but this essential fatty acid is not found in fish, fish oil, krill oil or algae oil. ALA is only found in trace amounts in canola and soy oil, and these are usually processed in damaging ways and deplete the body’s vitality instead of building it and are not recommended.
Why Kids Need Healthy Fats
Fats make possible the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins, like vitamins A, D, E and K. These nutrients are considered amongst the most important for overall health and are integral to survival; vision, skin and bone health and overall immune health are dependent on them, and all these nutrients require fat for absorption and to carry out these actions in the body. The richest food sources of these fat-soluble vitamins are among the most sought-after and highly prized traditional foods.
We first discovered that vitamin A prevented infection in the 1920s, and later that century molecular biology provided new evidence for synergy. Vitamin D activates its receptors only with vitamin A’s help. Vitamins A and D then work synergistically to support immune health. They then in turn help vitamin K to activate special proteins that help protect against cell death, support bone growth, and ensure minerals make it into teeth and not into arteries and other soft tissues.
Omega-3 fats are retained in tissues better when the body has some saturated fat, which is also necessary for calcium to be effectively incorporated into bones. As mentioned, omegas like ALA and LA are required by every cell of the human body. Clinical and biochemical evidence suggests that kids and teens with ADHD have significantly lower concentrations of polyunsaturated fatty acids, and that these deficiencies could be related to ADHD.
Where to get them: For convenience’s sake, Udo’s Oil was designed to supply all our daily needs for LA and ALA in the ideal ratio, and to provide the material to produce AA and DHA. Adding a small amount of coconut oil provides a touch of saturated medium chain triglycerides and evening primrose oil provides gamma linolenic acid. This is the most convenient way to get the most necessary and most elusive beneficial fatty acids, while keeping the taste light. For kids with ADHD, pick the Udo’s oil DHA Omega 3+6+9 Blend with added DHA.
Recommended Intakes of Fats and Omega-3s for Kids:
When we are born, we get up to half our energy as fat from mother’s milk or infant formula, and researchers think up to 5% of our energy should come from omega-3s. The American Heart Association recommends toddlers get between 30 to 35 percent of energy as fat. For a moderately active toddler eating 1,200 calories per day, one tablespoon of Udo’s Oil would provide 5% of total energy from omega-3s.
Children’s fat intake as a percentage of calories has decreased over the years, but school age kids should get 25 to 35 percent of calories from fat. In terms of a minimum daily omega intake, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics suggests for an infant that half a gram daily come from omega-3, rising to a gram daily for school age kids and more than a gram and a half daily for a teenage boy ready to graduate.
These recommended amounts of omegas could all be met with a teaspoon of Udo’s Oil daily! Each 15 mL serving of Udo’s Oil® Omega 3•6•9 Blend provides 6 grams of omega-3 ALA and 3 grams of omega-6 LA fatty acids without the bad fats they should avoid.
Made exclusively with 100% sustainable non-GMO, plant-based ingredients, Udo’s Oil is freshly pressed in a state-of-the-art, low light, temperature controlled and oxygen-free environment to optimize freshness and provide maximum nutritional value. Its organic, natural, unrefined flax, sunflower, sesame, coconut, evening primrose, oat and rice bran oil blend is designed to provide the ideal 2-to-1 ratio following the recommendations of the American Heart Association.
How to Give Omegas
Easy ways to use Udo’s Oil include adding a spoonful to a bowl of oatmeal, mixing into a smoothie or blended drink along with your kid’s favorite fruit, or blending it into dips of any kind, savory or sweet. You can also mix it into nut or seed butter for easy spreading on toast and sandwiches or drizzle it into soups before serving.
EASY TIP: If you’ve blended Udo’s Oil into a yogurt and fruit smoothie, make some extra! Pour it into a popsicle mold for a cold after-school treat. The oil prevents the creamsicles from getting too hard or icy.
Kids need special, essential, omega fatty acids (AA, LA and ALA) for every cell in their bodies. These fatty acids can be found only in plant sources and are not present in algae or fish. They need large amounts of these omegas for their brains, skin, cardiovascular and microcirculatory systems, overall cellular health and to regulate cell-mediated processes and inflammation. Getting healthy unrefined fats helps them to use fat-soluble vitamins for the health of their skin, eyes, bones and immunity, and to retain and efficiently use nutrients like omega-3s and calcium.
Award-winning Udo’s Oil® Omega 3•6•9 Blend is a convenient way to get all those fatty acids, in the correct ratios, and for those who have ADHD or diabetes, or who do not eat fish, Udo’s Oil® DHA Omega 3•6•9 Blend provides them with the added DHA they need as well. One tablespoon per day for toddlers and a teaspoon per day for school age kids is enough to meet their needs.
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Human essential fatty acid deficiency: treatment by topical application of linoleic acid. P Skolnik, W H Eaglstein, V A Ziboh. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/406855/
Hilda F. Wiese, Arild E. Hansen, Doris J. D. Adam, Essential Fatty Acids in Infant Nutrition: I. Linoleic Acid Requirement in Terms of Serum Di-, Tri- and Tetraenoic acid Levels, The Journal of Nutrition, Volume 66, Issue 3, November 1958, Pages 345–360, https://doi.org/10.1093/jn/66.3.345
Hansen, A. E., Wiese, H. F., Boelsche, A. N., Haggard, M. E., Adam, D.J.D. & Davis, H. (1963) Role of linoleic acid in infant nutrition. Pediatrics 31:171–192. https://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/31/1/171.short
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Alpha-Linolenic Acid: An Omega-3 Fatty Acid with Neuroprotective Properties—Ready for Use in the Stroke Clinic? Nicolas Blondeau,1,2 Robert H. Lipsky,3 Miled Bourourou,1,2 Mark W. Duncan,4,5 Philip B. Gorelick,6 and Ann M. Marini https://www.hindawi.com/journals/bmri/2015/519830/
American Heart Association. https://www.heart.org/en/healthy-living/healthy-eating/eat-smart/nutrition-basics/dietary-recommendations-for-healthy-children#:~:text=Keep%20total%20fat%20intake%20between,fish%2C%20nuts%20and%20vegetable%20oils.
Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. https://www.eatright.org/food/vitamins-and-supplements/types-of-vitamins-and-nutrients/do-kids-need-omega-3-fats
About the Author: Dana Remedios
Holistic Nutritionist Dana Green Remedios, RHN, RNCP has a passion for helping others break through their blocks to greater health, wealth, and happiness, working with transformational mind-body tools. The Vancouver-based educator and coach answers your questions in English, French, and Spanish as a Specialist working in the Product Information Department at Flora, and is a regular contributor to the FloraHealthy blog.