Fatty Acids Might Sound Bad, But They’re Great for Your Little One’s Growth
Fat sometimes gets a bad rep, but it’s essential fuel for the body: fuel to store energy, fuel to exert that (seemingly endless) energy, fuel to grow. It’s why 20% of a toddler’s body mass is made up of fat.
Childhood is a critical window for growth and development. It is also a period where your child’s brain function is at its most malleable – and nutrition has the power to stimulate or slow it. So, when it comes to fats, how can this once shunned food group help to get your child’s development off to the best possible start?
What are fatty acids?
Fats – or fatty acids – come in many forms: saturated, monounsaturated, polyunsaturated, trans fats, some of which are more beneficial than others. And when it comes to your little one’s nutrition, a healthy amount1 of the long-chain polyunsaturated variety is a must.
Proven to contribute to normal cognitive function, reduce the risk of allergies2 and prevent many auto-immune diseases3, the two key fatty acid families – Omega-3 and Omega-6 – are considered essential for healthy development, from childhood right through to adulthood.
But in spite of their many benefits, we’re incapable of producing these little miracle workers ourselves, which means we rely on a nutritionally complete diet to do the hard work for us – and our little ones, too.
Fatty acids and growing bodies
Essential fatty acids, such as Omega 3 and Omega 6, are needed at every life stages to support general health and wellbeing, but they are particularly important during childhood, for many reasons.
Omega 3, such as Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and Omega 6, such as Arachidonic acid (AA) are the key essential fatty acids in the brain, as they are the major structural components of neuronal membranes. They are often needed for the normal development and functioning of the brain, heart and immune system, as well as for many other aspects of physical and mental health, wellbeing and performance.4
DHA plays a major role in developing the retina (eye) and the central nervous system. 5 It’s also been found to revitalise brain cells6.
Fatty acids act as a mood booster for children
On top of this, these all-important fatty acids are equally as important for maintaining cognitive functions as we age. But above all, it’s a major mood booster.7
Which foods contain Omega-3 and Omega-6?
Think Omega-3, think oily fish, like tuna, mackerel, salmon and sardines. Vegetable oils, such as flaxseed and canola, also provide healthy amounts of the good stuff.
Like Omega-3, Omega-6 is also found in certain vegetable oils, in this case, soybean and sunflower (among others) and while these are useful in small quantities, they also feature heavily in a lot of processed foods.
Ensuring your child has a well-balanced diet is a simple way you can manage intake and make sure they’re getting all the good stuff, too.
If your toddler isn’t a lover of these foods, a growing up formula milk enriched with DHA like AptaGroTM Growing Up Formula Milk can also help supplement their daily diet with DHA.
1. FAO/WHO Expert Consultation on Fats and Fatty Acids in Human Nutrition, Interim Summary of Conclusions and Dietary Recommendations on Total Fat & Fatty Acids, 10-14 November, 2008, WHO, Geneva
2. Bakalar, N. (2018). Probiotics and Fish Oil During Pregnancy May Curb Allergies in Kids. [online] Nytimes.com. Available at: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/03/07/well/family/probiotics-fish-oil-pregnancy-eczema-food-allergies-breastfeeding.html.
3. Lee, J. (2013). Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids in Children. Pediatric Gastroenterology, Hepatology & Nutrition, 16(3), p.153.
4. Janssen CI, Kiliaan AJ. Long chain polyunsaturated fatty acids (LCPUFA) from genesis to senescence: the influence of LCPUFA on neural development, aging, and neurodegeneration. Prog Lipid Res 2014;53:1-17
5. González, F. and Báez, R. (2017). IN TIME: IMPORTÂNCIA DOS ÔMEGA 3 NA NUTRIÇÃO INFANTIL. Revista Paulista de Pediatria, 35(1), pp.3-4.
6. Lee, J. (2013). Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids in Children. Pediatric Gastroenterology, Hepatology & Nutrition, 16(3), p.153.
7. David Mischoulon, P. (2018). Omega-3 fatty acids for mood disorders - Harvard Health Blog. [online] Harvard Health Blog. Available at: https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/omega-3-fatty-acids-for-mood-disorders-2018080314414.