With Pride Inclusive Integrated Healthcare

Omega-3 Deficiency & the Correlation to 

Poor Concentration in Children

  

10 July 2020

Sharon Abel

BHSc (Nat)

Naturopath, Founder & Director of With Pride

Do you remember being asked this question as a child when moving around “Have you got ants in your pants”?.

So many children find it hard to draw their attention to one task, whether this be at home or at school, there are so many sensory distractions around them now with technology, class sizes and that constant desire for instant gratification that the last few generations seem to be craving.

I have to propose to you from this that there may be a very simple underlying nutrient deficiency that is contributing to this inability to sit still and stay focused.

Omega-3 supplementation has been strongly linked with a statistically significant increase in concentration and focus in children, whether this be a child diagnosed with ADHD or just a child that seeks instant gratification from tasks rather than taking the time to create something and work on it over time.

A form of Omega – 3 that is important in this area of concentration is called a-linolenic acid (ALA), it is classed as an essential fatty acid, this meaning it is essential that we get it through food because the body can not make it via other means. To some degree ALA can also be converted to eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) which further supports concentration and focus, however it is important that these are also consumed directly from foods on a regular basis to have a therapeutic effect.

So, what can we do about this? Because let’s be honest not many children get excited over oily fish which is one of the greatest sources of omega-3, I know my little one doesn’t, and I can assure you I have worn foods that we have attempted to introduce on more than one occasion!

Whilst I encourage educating children about food and nutrition to promote healthy eating I know firsthand that this is often very difficult to navigate, so in those cases it’s about being creative to what you know works with your child, for some hiding it in with other foods or drinks may be the only option, for others it may just simply be explaining the benefits and they will eat the foods or take a supplement happily.

Foods that are high in a-linolenic acid are; flaxseed oil, walnuts, chia seeds, tofu and soybean oil.

Herring, salmon and sardines are at the top of the list for being highest in EPA and DHA, although these may be more difficult to hide there are ways, for example if you make tuna pasta bakes at home regularly (recommend spelt pasta rather than wheat) you could slowly change the meal by adding half tuna and half salmon and keep changing that each time until it is salmon only.

Flaxseed oil, as an example could be disguised in smoothies (if thick enough) or drizzled over their dinner lightly. Chia seeds, ground flaxseeds and walnuts could easily be hidden within delicious tasting recipes such as protein balls (non-baked). Getting the kids involved in rolling the final product to encourage them will help immensely, you will find plenty of recipes online if you would like to try this out.

If all else fails in disguising foods there are some great tasting supplements out there that can help you to ensure your child is getting the nutrients they need, I recommended purchasing these from a health food store or via a consultation with a Naturopath where you can be given sound advise in navigating the vast range of supplements available to what suits your child best. 

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