GOED Exchange: Are Children the Next Omega-3 Target Group?

Experts explain why omega-3 products are well suited for tots.

Among the delights of this week’s GOED Exchange in Salt Lake City is a provocative, ongoing discussion about positioning omega-3 awareness towards children and the parents and caregivers who shop for them. While pregnant/nursing mothers and middle-aged adults have traditionally made up much of the consumer base for omega-3 products, experts at the GOED Exchange remind us that these essential fatty acids play a critical role in the developing brains and bodies of adolescents.

Bill Sears, MD, is a pediatrician. He also happens to be the author of dozens of parenting books, including such hits as The Healthy Pregnancy Book, The Baby Sleep Book, and You Can Go to the Potty. But his most recent endeavor, shared amongst this year’s GOED Exchange visitors, stars Dr. O. Mega III, the animated fish shown above, who teaches children about the simple healing powers of omega-3 fatty acids. With the help of the Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals, Sears plans to distribute copies of his new picture-filled pamphlet to thousands of children across 170 hospitals in North America. Dr. O will take those children on a fun adventure into the human arteries, a child’s brain, and even mommy’s womb-all places where his little fishy friends do their nutritional hard work.

A few more serious presentations provided Exchange attendees with the hard science behind omega-3 fatty acids-particularly DHA-and the developing brain. Aside from the stark images of brains with and without DHA deficiencies (there are many), it turns out there’s a considerable body of studies linking DHA deficiency with impaired brain development and greater risk for developing anxiety, depression, and other mental disorders. Furthermore, a number of recent trials link omega-3 supplementation with improvements in spelling, reading and behavior, and (with EPA) improvements in ADHD symptoms.

The story around omega-3 nutrition and young children will surely continue in the near and distant future.