Some of the benefits of fish oil for kids and pregnant women include high in essential Omega-3 fatty acids, can help in controlling asthma, is helpful for children with ADD and ADHD, can reduce inflammations, improves cognitive skills in children, can protect liver, can reduce miscarriage in pregnant women, can enhance the immune system of newborns, etc and more.
Fish oil has been consumed for thousands of years now. Of course, the first type of fish oil to be consumed was fish’s liver oil by early Nordic countries. Soon this habit of consuming fish liver oil spread of other countries of Europe. This happened during the Viking period. Even before this, the Greeks and Romans consumed fish liver oil as a cure to various ailments. In the early 20th century fish liver oil was prescribed as a remedy for rickets due to its high Vitamin D content.
This is about fish liver oil, but our real interest here is fish oil. Fish oil consumed more by Eskimos on this planet, more than anybody else. A research in 1970s can be attributed to the craze behind fish oil. It was noted that though Eskimos’ diet was comprised of high fat from fish, yet there were hardly any cases of heart disease nor anyone hardly in the risk zone of heart disease. This was counter-intuitive at that time because of the fact that high fat diet can lead to heart disease. The research showed that Eskimos high fat diet actually consisted of good fats which are Omega-3 fatty acids and less of Omega-6 fatty acids. That made the difference and hence forth many researches conducted have time and again proved the same thing, that our diet needs to be high in Omega-3 fats and not Omega-6 fats.
Fish oil is extracted from different fish which include mackerel, sardines, swordfish, oysters, tuna fish, yellow fin tuna, turbot, pilchards, herring, sea bass, rainbow trout, lake trout, halibut, herring, etc. The quality of the fish oil more or less depends upon the fish that go into the extraction process and also on the environment from which these fish were caught.
Health benefits of fish oil for kids and pregnant women
Here are some of the health benefits of fish oil listed below.
Is a good source of essential fatty acids: Fish oil is the best source of essential fatty acids which include Omega 3 and Omega 6 fatty acids. These fatty acids play a variety of roles in our body ranging from brain functioning, cognitive abilities, etc.
Can help in controlling asthma: Fish oil is also helpful in controlling pulmonary diseases such as asthma. One study in particular has shown that fish oil can reduce the incidence of asthma. It was concluded that fish oil has the potential to be used as a supplementary intervention for asthma. Apart from this study, another study showed that when pregnant women take fish oil supplements, the risk of asthma is reduced further in children.
Helpful in children with ADD and ADHD: In one study it was shown that by giving fish oil supplements to children with ADD or ADHD, the condition could be improved substantially. Various conditions such as hyperactivity, dyslexia, poor concentration, short term memory, low concentration, low IQ, etc could all be controlled by giving fish oil supplements.
Can improve cognitive skills in children: Taking fish oil supplements can enhance cognitive skills of children. This is especially true when fish oil supplements are taken by pregnant women. In a study where infants whose mothers received fish oil supplements during their pregnancies developed higher eye and hand coordination than those infants whose mothers did not receive fish oil supplements.
Has anti-inflammatory properties: Fish oil is high in Omega-3 fatty acids and there is good amount of evidence suggesting that these fatty acids have a potential of anti-inflammatory properties. Increasing the intake of Omega-3 fatty acids is good for controlling various inflammations. Studies suggest that inflammations from chronic illnesses can be reduced by consuming Omega-3 fatty acids, especially through fish oil supplementation.
Can protect liver: Taking fish oil supplementation on a regular basis can reduce the effects of damage to liver caused by hepatotoxins. One study showed that mice which were fed with high polyunsaturated fats from fish oil supplementation showed a positive effect on liver damage caused by hepatotoxins. In fact, the fats helped in reducing the liver damage by initiating anti-inflammatory action and reversed cell damage to a considerable extent.
Can reduce muscle damage associated with exercise: In a study with wheelchair based basketball players, it was noted that by taking fish oil supplementation, the incidence of neutrophil (common type of white blood cells) and muscle damage associated with exercise were reduced considerably. If your kids complain of pain after playing, consider giving them fish oil supplementation to reduce the damage on muscle.
Can reduce the risk of miscarriage: Taking fish oil can reduce the chances of miscarriage during pregnancy. One of the reasons for miscarriage during pregnancy is because of an autoimmune disorder known as antiphospholipid syndrome. Pregnant women with this disorder have very high rates of miscarriage and fish oil seems to reduce miscarriage substantially.
Can reduce allergies in children: One study showed that when pregnant women take Omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids, particularly through fish oil supplementation can reduce the risk of food borne allergies in their children. This study was conducted on those women who were allergic themselves, or had husbands and children who were allergic.
Can enhance the immune system of newborns: A study about the relationship between immunomodulatory relation between breast milk and Omega-3 fatty acids from fish oil was conducted. The study showed that cytokines in the breastmilk of mothers who were given fish oil supplements was higher in comparison to control group. These cytokines help in triggering immune functions in babies.
Disadvantages of using fish oil
There are certain disadvantages of consuming fish oil. These disadvantages make it important to consume it in moderation.
Smell of fish oil: Fish oil gives out a nasty smell which most people don’t like. There are reports and complaints by people consuming fish oil. These complaints include bad breath, fishy body odor (when consumed in large doses), etc.
Not a substitute to vegetable oil: Fish oil cannot be directly used as a substitute to vegetable oil that we generally use. Though fish oil is a good source of Omega-3 fatty acids which are very much beneficial, it shouldn’t be substituted with vegetable oil. There are toxicity issues associated with fish oil because of the pollutants present in the fish’s environment. Some of the pollutants include arsenic, lead, mercury and cadmium which generally find a way in waters and accumulate in the fish.
Excessive dosage of fish oil: Another reason why not to consume more of fish oil is that there can be dosage related issues which include allergies and side effects. In some cases, hemorrhagic strokes are also associated with high consumption of fish oil.
Concern for pregnant women: Though, fish oil is highly recommended to pregnant women due to the advantages it has for the unborn child, yet these advantages must be balanced with the disadvantages as well. With contamination from toxins like arsenic, lead, mercury and cadmium pose a greater risk to your unborn child than the advantage of consuming fish oil supplements.
Consult your physician: It is always better consult your physician before going ahead and consuming fish oil supplements. Your physician can tell you better if you really need fish oil supplementation or suggest any other alternatives. He can also help you in choosing trusted fish oil supplement brands which adhere to high quality standards
What to look for in fish oil supplements?
Fish oil supplements, just like any other supplements, are prone to many discrepancies in terms of their content and levels of contamination. One way to ensure that you are buying from a good and reputed brand is to look for credible certifications from independent labs. Make sure that even these labs are not just some labs run by other companies, but independent, reputed, international and/ or government sponsored or government owned laboratories. This is one good way of segregating a brand of trusting fish oil supplement.