If you are wondering if your child is getting all the necessary ingredients for proper development from their diet, this article is for you. In the following article we will focus on one of the omega 3 fatty acids – DHA. The average intake is around 10 mg per day at the age of 1-3 years, the desired dose is as much as 150-200mg/day. So what to do to enrich the child’s diet with DHA? How to choose proper dietary products? Is each omega 3 supplement worth its price?
What is DHA fatty acid
DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) is an substance from the group of polyunsaturated fatty acid from omega 3 group, which must be supplied from the diet, as the organism is unable to produce it on its own. Its proper supply is extremely important because it supports the development of the nervous system (that is why it should be supplemented already during pregnancy), but also influences the quality of sleep in children and improves their immunity. Adding DHA fatty acids supplementation may reduce the risk of complications in state of pregnancy.
Functions of docosahexaenoic acid
Starting from the very beginning – from the moment when a baby is in the womb – DHA is responsible for the formation of the central nervous system, and thus the retina. It is also responsible for proper development of the organs of speech. DHA deficiency in a pregnant woman may also cause premature birth. However, we must remember that it is not only the baby’s health that is at stake here. Correct supplementation of pregnant women is very important to reduce perinatal complications and the risk of depression during pregnancy and after birth.
If we follow the development of the child in the womb, we can see that the fetal brain starts to form as early as in the 7th week. In the second trimester it reaches its full number of neurons, and at the beginning of the third trimester the activity of the cerebral cortex begins.
The structure of cells of the nervous system, half consists of omega 3 acids, and the process of myelinization, i.e. the formation of the envelope along the nerve fiber in the spinal cord is responsible for the proper course of nerve connections. DHA fatty acids also play a role in a baby’s emotional development. In the third trimester the already active cerebral cortex exercises full control over the child’s motor system.
Sources of DHA
It is well known that the best source of DHA acids are marine fish. Such fish include cod, salmon, tuna, herring and mackerel, sardines, halibut and anchovies. In order to cover the demand for DHA, it is recommended to consume about 3 servings of fish per week.
In addition, DHA can be found in marine algae, nuts, tofu, flaxseed and rapeseed. However, remember that the ratio of omega 3 to omega 6 is much worse in oils than in fish. And too much supply of omega 6 has a pro-inflammatory effect, so it is undesirable for our body.
Unfortunately there is a big threat from our environment, in the form of pollution, as a concentration of dioxins and mercury is regularly over the norm. Mercury appears in water along with pollution. Fish have a high capacity to store this element, which can result in the ingestion of excess mercury by the child. In the human body, mercury forms the non-removable compound methylmercury, which is harmful to the child.
How much DHA acids should be supplemented?
Pregnant and breastfeeding women should supplement a minimum of 200 mg per day. However, if a woman eats small amounts of fish, DHA supplementation in pregnancy can be increased to 600 mg/day. Still, the dose of even 1g per day is considered safe.
Infants – after 7 months of age, supplementation should be considered based on the amount of fatty fish servings consumed. It is also worth noting if the baby is breastfed, if so – supplementation should be taken by the mother. If she is on breast milk, then DHA should be administered directly to the child.
Children between 1 and 3 years – with appropriate diet and proper absorption at least 200 mg DHA/day
Children over 3 years – with appropriate diet and supplementation – minimum 250 mg DHA/day.