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Fish Oil and Your Child’s Brain

Posted 07/26/2006

Fish oil bolsters your health in numerous ways: it’s a natural anti-inflammatory, helps prevent heart disease, stroke, and age-related macular degeneration, and boosts your stress-buffering serotonin.

Do you remember your mom saying “fish is brain food”? Turns out she’s right.

Studies conducted over the past few years have shown that one of the omega-3 fatty acids in fish oil–DHA (docosahexaenoic acid)–is vital for healthy human brain development. The children of women who took DHA supplements during pregnancy showed enhanced intelligence, better visual performance, and quicker learning.

Analyzing a lot of accumulated data, the prestigious Harvard Center for Risk Analysis predicted that for every 100 mg of DHA taken during pregnancy, a child’s IQ increased by 0.13 points. That means if you get 2 to 2.5 grams of DHA a day during pregnancy, you can boost your child’s IQ by a full 5 to 6 points.

This isn’t difficult if you eat fish and take fish oil supplements, but part of the challenge is finding mercury-free fish. Mercury is toxic to the developing fetal brain, and mercury-free fish is expensive and available only from certain retailers or online. Many of my patients instead take fish oil supplements, pills or liquid, which are virtually mercury-free.

You can now find surprisingly tasty fish oil concentrates for daily use. Here’s the dosing I recommend:

  • Pregnant women–1 to 2 grams of fish oil daily.
  • When your child is old enough for a liquid vitamin (about age 4)–daily dose of 500 mg fish oil.
  • DHA has also become an important nutritional tool for children and teenagers with behavioral and learning problems. If your child has one of these, the fish oil dose is 500 mg to1 gram daily.

Click here to see the liquid fish oil I recommend.


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