Are You Getting Enough Omega-3? Future Generations Depend On It!
Although there are many contributing factors to the development of learning disabilities and mood disorders in children, omega-3 deficiency is one factor that scientific research has confirmed time and time again.
A study performed at the University of Pittsburgh showed that:
- Not only must children consume adequate levels of omega-3 fatty acids for proper brain development, yet also…
- A strong link exists between the amount of omega-3 fatty acids consumed by parents (before conception) and the brain health of their children.
In the Pittsburgh study, researchers intentionally bred a group of rats to have significant omega-3 deficiency. Researchers then compared their offspring to another group of offspring without an inherited omega-3 deficiency. They administered a set of behavioral tasks to study learning and memory, decision-making, anxiety, and hyperactivity of the adults and adolescents in both groups. The results?
“The animals (with the omega-3 deficiency) looked fine and they could learn, but they were slow learners. They were more anxious and had impaired problem-solving abilities,” said Bita Moghaddam, the professor of neuroscience who led the study.
Moghaddam went on to say, “We have always assumed that stress contributes to developing these conditions in at-risk individuals, but this study indicates that nutrition is a big factor, too, and could be a trigger in those genetically vulnerable to conditions like depression or schizophrenia.”
The History of Inherited Omega-3 Deficiency
The study findings directly correlate with the rise in ADHD and other cognitive impairment disorders since the 1990s. Many parents of today’s teens were born in the 1960s and 1970s, a time period in which farming methods and dietary values shifted significantly for the worse.
During the 1960s and 70s:
- Omega-3-deficient oils like corn and soy oil became prevalent.
- Farm animals moved from eating grass to grain. Since omega-3s are present in grass and algae, much of today’s grain-fed cattle contain less of these essential fatty acids.
- Processed convenience foods (which are high in omega-6s) gained popularity.
The Future of Omega-3 Deficiency
Although many infant formulas are now fortified with DHA, an important omega-3 fatty acid for brain development, many American children eat a consistent diet of processed convenience foods that are completely void of omega-3 fatty acids and extremely high in poor-quality omega-6 fatty acids.
“Our study shows that, while the omega-3 deficiency influences the behavior of both adults and adolescents, the nature of this influence is different between the age groups,” said Moghaddam. “We observed changes in areas of the brain responsible for decision making and habit formation.”
Diets lacking omega-3 fatty acids can have worsened effects over consecutive generations. This means that we may very well see a continued, and even elevated trend of cognitive impairment conditions in both the young and old over time.
In general, Americans eat 11 to 30 times the amount of omega-6s as compared to omega-3s. When this ratio is out of balance, omega-6s promote inflammation within the brain and other tissues in the body. Foods such as vegetable oils, baked goods, crackers, and cereals are high in omega-6 fatty acids. Furthermore, high heat and processing de-stabilizes these oils, making them even more pro-inflammatory. Do your best to limit omega-6s – the brain health of your grandchildren may depend on it!
Children of All Ages Benefit From Omega-3 Supplementation
Another study performed on 493 school children aged 7-9 showed that just 600 mg of DHA per day had a robust, positive impact in aiding the ‘under-performing’ children – those with a reading ability 2 years behind the expected level.
This study shows that omega-3 fatty acids, and DHA in particular, will still support healthy brain function outside of the critical pre-natal period.
If you believe that you or your family may be lacking sufficient omega-3 fatty acids, reach for these foods first:
We understand that keeping track of omega-3 intake from foods can be a challenging task, especially for children and teens. If this is the case, you may want to consider a nutritional supplement to fill the gaps.