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Attention deficit disorder (ADD) or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is the leading childhood psychiatric disorder in North America.
A conservative estimate is that three to five percent of all school-aged children have been diagnosed with ADD or ADHD, and about two to three times more boys than girls are diagnosed.
While some believe the heightened diagnosis is due to boys being naturally more rambunctious and overactive, recent research indicates there may be other causes.
Fat and the Brain
A child's brain is comprised of approximately 60 percent fat that is critical for the normal functioning of the brain and nervous system. A majority of children diagnosed with ADD have a deficiency of omega-3 essential fatty acids, and research has shown that children with a hyperactivity disorder often show symptoms of omega-3 deficiencies such as eczema, asthma, and other allergies.
It also appears boys' requirements for omega-3 is greater than that of girls'. In a cross-sectional study of 6- to 12-year-old boys, 53 subjects with ADHD had significantly lower proportions of key fatty acids in the plasma polar lipids than the 43 control subjects. In other words, the boys with ADHD did not have enough essential fatty acids in their blood for normal brain function to occur.
Fish Oils and Kids
Unfortunately, most North Americans are chronically deficient in omega-3 fat due to a diet filled with refined flours, processed food, and vegetable oils. While the ideal ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fat is approximately 1:1, most of us have a ratio between 20:1 and 30:1. Although food such as walnuts, omega-3 eggs, cold-water fish, and flaxseed oil contain good amounts of omega-3, it is very difficult to obtain enough from food alone.
In addition to other natural approaches that benefit children with ADD including addressing food allergies, supplementing with magnesium, and limiting television, adding fish oils to their daily regimen has demonstrated significant benefits in behaviour.
If your child has been diagnosed with ADD, I recommend speaking to an integrative health care professional. While Health Canada's recommendations (see box) are good for baseline amounts of omega-3, children with ADD often require significantly more.
How do you get your child to take fish oils? Luckily, most health food stores carry flavoured fish oils such as cherry, banana, and strawberry. Add the liquid to a morning shake, and your child will not even notice. If your child is old enough to swallow a capsule, select a high quality, enteric-coated fish oil capsule.
Before accepting the diagnosis of ADD, do some research. There are many natural approaches that get to the root of the problem and have been shown to have positive, long-lasting effects on a child's behaviour.
According to Health Canada, the recommended daily intake for omega-3 essential fats is:
|Kids 0-12 months||500 mg|
|1-2 years old||600 mg|
|2-3 years old||700 mg|
|4-6 years old||1,000 mg|
|7-9 years old||1,200 mg for boys |
1,000 mg for girls
|10-12 years old||1,400 mg for boys|
1,200 mg for girls