In a recent post, we highlighted some brain boosting foods of which one was fish. Well, we’ve always known fish was good, but how good is good? I thought I should check it out further, especially since Aristotle no longer likes to eat fish. The funny thing is that he really liked it when he was little. He really liked vegetables, too. Then he grew out of them both and move into junk food.
A quick scan on the Internet showed that the brain boosting ability can be seen directly in children who take fish oils:
“regular doses of fish oils dramatically boosted young children’s performance at school. Nearly three quarters of the youngsters – who were of mixed academic ability – showed improvements in numeracy, reading and writing after taking fish oil supplements for nine months.” – Daily mail.
“More and more studies are offering encouraging results to suggest that fish oils can improve children’s concentration.
Recent research has highlighted the specific benefits to the brain of the fatty acids in fish, particularly in children with behavioural or learning difficulties.
This is because in conditions such as autism, the brain needs more fatty acids than normal. Fatty acids also improve blood flow to the brain, which may help concentration.” – Daily mail.
Then there are the results from the Durham trial:
“Dramatic results were seen within just 3 months of the trial. The children in the active group supplementing with fatty acids saw significant improvements in reading (9.5 months), spelling (6.5 months) and behaviour, compared to the placebo group where no overall improvement was made.
During the 3-6 month period when the placebo group crossed over to fatty acid supplementation, considerable improvements were shown in the same areas, with an average reading gain of 13.5 months and an average spelling gain at over 6 months. The active group that continued with fatty acid supplementation showed further signs of progress or maintained their improvement.
At the start of the trial, all of the school children were a year behind their chronological age for reading and spelling, but after the trial, the active group who had been on fatty acids throughout the trial made spelling and reading gains over and above their chronological age.”
Wow! Amazing! We should start giving the boys fish oil immediately! Until you dig a little deeper and find out that there’s a lot of controversy over the Durham trial and it has been hailed as “bad science”. Okay, so I didn’t really have a lot of time to do more than a superficial scan of the media so I’m not too clear what the final conclusion was – whether it was all bogus or whether it was inconclusive or if there was some but limited brain benefits from fish oils proven. Whatever the case, an article from BBC seems to indicate that there is potential benefit but it isn’t fully understood just yet.
They might have some slight benefit on children with attention disorder, and some of them might have dyslexia. But there are a lot of provisos,” says Snowling.
While researchers have yet to fully resolve how the balance of different Omega 3s affects brain function, one point on which they agree is that studies into their effects need to be widened beyond children.
Well, even if the jury is still out on the brain benefits of taking fish oils, there is no denying the health benefits of taking fish oils. So if the boys take their fish oil, they’ll get the health benefits at the very least and possibly some brain benefits, too, and that’s good enough for me.
Since Hercules is fine eating fish, it’s only really Aristotle we have to work on. So far we’ve been giving him Scott’s Emulsion which he is taking but a brief online investigation seems to suggest that for children, cod liver oil is not the way to go. This is because cod liver oil contains high levels of Vitamin A and D which can be toxic since they are both fat-soluble vitamins that the body can’t get rid of if taken in excess. Also, traditional cod liver oil is apparently not particularly rich in EPA and DHA – which are the Omega-3 fatty acids that we’re after.
The best sources for Omega-3 fatty acids are tuna and salmon because they have lots of it. Although nutrients are best taken directly from food sources, which means eating fish like tuna and salmon, we’ve already identified that this isn’t going to work for Aristotle. So we’re back to supplements…
The recommended daily dose of DHA and EPA is about 450-500mg, so that’s what we’re looking for in the market. Currently, Aristotle is taking Sustegen milk powder (a very recent formula milk addition to his diet that he finally tolerates) which only offers 120mg per serve so we need to start looking for an additional supplement. I haven’t figured out what that will be as yet so if you have one that’s working well for you, please recommend it to us in the comments section. Thank you!