Why omega-3 improves your and children’s mood and memory

How much of the ‘terrible 2s’ is actually down to a lack of omega-3? If a child is acting out, with bursts of anger and unable to concentrate, it’s entirely possible that they are lacking enough omega-3. Children are particularly vulnerable to dips in omega-3 supply because their brains are building so fast. If they eat no fish, no chia, flax or walnut and are not given omega-3 fish oil supplements, they’re going to be lacking. If you know a child with symptoms that sound like an attention deficit or hyperactivity, read this: https://foodforthebrain.org/adhd/.

Omega fish oil supplements are proven to help children with ADHD, but what about adults? Perhaps you find yourself occasionally over-emotional, illogical and stressed out beyond reason, given the circumstances. Could you be lacking omega-3? (We address stress and how to build stress resilience in the SLEEP AND CALM domain.)

A trial involving adults without attention or behaviour issues reported significant improvements in memory. Find out more. The trial  carried out in New Zealand at Massey University, gave 176 adults between the ages of 18 and 45 either an omega 3 fish oil supplement providing 1.16 grams of DHA or a placebo for six months. They selected non-smokers, who didn’t take fish oil supplements and consumed less than 200mg of DHA+EPA a week – in other words, didn’t eat fish often.

They measured various aspects of cognitive function including tests for memory and reaction time at the beginning and end of six months. Those of the omega 3 DHA supplements had a highly significant improvement in two tests for memory (episodic and working memory) and a significant, but small, improvement in reaction time.

What about mood and depression? The other critical omega-3 fat, EPA, has been tested as an anti-depressant in numerous trials. A ‘meta-analysis’ which is a study of all the trials, concludes: ‘the use of omega-3 fats is effective both in patients with major depressive disorder and milder depression’. For depression the greater the amount of EPA, not DHA, the more effective the treatment was. The most effective studies give 1,000mg of EPA with the lowest amount having an effect being 300mg combined EPA/DHA.

What does this mean for you? A large 100g serving of mackerel or salmon gives you 650mg of EPA. Most fish oil capsules providing 1,000mg of fish oil, provide something like 260mg EPA & 190mg DHA. Some supplements include a little omega-6 GLA, which as been shown to be effective for ADHD. Our suggestion is to aim for a combined intake of 500mg of EPA+DHA from supplements. Most vegan sources of DHA and not particularly rich in EPA, however the body can convert EPA into DHA and vice versa.