​How Much Omega-3s Kids Need at Every Age

When determining how much omega-3s kids need at every age, we need to consider multiple facets, including the child's body weight, omega-3 source, the latest scientific research, and the Omega-3 Index. Recommendations will vary, but we do know that omega-3s are important from the beginning of life, through adolescence, to young adults and beyond.
 
Studies show the omega-3s EPA and DHA promote healthy brain, vision, and nervous system development; sleep; and learning in children. Approximately 60% of the brain is made up of fat, and the most prominent fat in the brain and retinas is DHA. DHA is especially important for young children, as during their first two years their brains nearly double in size.
 
According to the National Institute of Health (NIH), “Intake recommendations for fatty acids and other nutrients are provided in the Dietary Reference Intakes (DRIs) developed by the Food and Nutrition Board of the Institute of Medicine (IOM) which is now called the National Academy of Medicine. When the IOM last reviewed omega-3s, insufficient data was available to establish an Estimated Average Requirement (EAR), so the IOM established Adequate Intakes (AIs) for all ages based on omega-3 intakes in healthy populations.” 
 
The IOM noted that since breastmilk contains omega-3s (Alpha Linoleic Acid, EPA, and DHA) they established an AI for infants from birth-12 months. The milligram dose depends on kilograms of body weight. The IOM gave an “AI for ALA only for ages 1 and older because ALA is the only omega-3 that is essential.” The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends that infants 6 to 24 months get 10-12 milligrams of DHA (the preferred form of omega-3 for that age) per kilogram of body weight. To best achieve the dose necessary for infants, Carlson offers an unflavored Baby’s DHA liquid that supplies easy and accurate dosing with a syringe.
 
More recent research on omega-3s and brain health show how important omega-3s are for teens. The regions of the brain associated with learning and memory undergo significant growth during the teenage years, requiring an abundance of healthy fats. They also support mood and vision health.
 
The best way to determine an appropriate omega-3 dose for an adolescent is to take an Omega-3 Index Test, which measures the amount of EPA and DHA in red blood cell membranes and is expressed as a percent of total fatty acids. Once their baseline omega-3 level is determined, we can use the OmegaQuant calculator to estimate the omega-3 dose necessary to achieve the 6% goal. If you choose not to do an Omega-3 Index Test for your youth, a great place to start is 500 mg or higher of a combination of EPA and DHA.
 
“New research published in October 2020 showed that children might have a different target Omega-3 Index vs. adults” stated OmegaQuant. “The target Omega-3 Index for adults is 8%, while this new research suggests that 6% is the optimal level for kids, especially when looking at the impact of omega-3s EPA and DHA on their cognition.” To figure out the best dosage to give an adolescent in order to achieve an optimal omega-3 blood level of 6% or more can be determined with an Omega-3 Test Kit
 
Children could achieve a higher intake of omega-3s through their diet, but studies show kids typically don't eat many omega-3-rich foods. Good sources of Alpha Linoleic Acid (one form of omega-3s) are leafy greens, walnuts, chia seeds, flax seeds, and Brussels sprouts. ALA also isn't as powerful as the other omega-3 fatty acids due to its incredibly limited and minimal conversion rate to EPA and DHA.

Direct food sources of EPA and DHA include wild-caught Alaskan salmon, sardines, mackerel, herring, tuna, and anchovies. Eating these fish at least twice a week for adults and children are recommended to achieve an adequate omega-3 amount. Be sure to note that servings of fish are smaller for children and will depend on their age.
 
For children and teens who aren't getting enough omega-3s through diet alone, a supplement can be a great option. Consider adding an omega-3 to their daily routine. Carlson omega-3 fish oils are available in chewable soft gels and award-winning flavored liquids. The liquid is delicious off the spoon but can also be drizzled over some of their favorite foods, like popcorn, peanut butter and jelly, pizza, hummus, yogurt, guacamole, or a smoothie.