Fish Oil Makes Better Baby Brains

February 18, 2013

Fish Oil Makes Better Baby Brains 

Reference:  Perspectives in Psychological Science, Protzko Jan 23, 2013 

 Dr. Protzko performed a meta-analysis looking at all the sources of higher IQ from all the studies that have been done and done well, over the last few decades.  By combining multiple studies you can get more “power” to your predictive value and hopefully more authenticity, more reliability to your findings. That’s what makes this study intriguing. 

 Fish oil, or omega-3 fatty acid, supplementation was found to raise the IQ of children some 3.5 points.   Not bad.   Sending a child to preschool added 4 points, and a preschool that included a second language added 7 points.  Reading interactively with children was good for 6 points.  (I guess that means pointing to the cat and asking the child, “How does the cat go?”….”Meowww?)  

But fish oil stands out as a food element or supplement that can be added irrespective of everything else. Why?  Well, this isn’t the first study to show this. The Avon Study from Great Britain a few years back showed that mothers who ate fish frequently had children with higher IQs.  The study was phrased negatively: those who ate the least fish had the lowest IQ children.  

But why are omega – 3 fats so critical to your IQ?  SIMPLE!  They are the highest single ingredient in your brain.  As much as 20% of the dry weight of your brain is made of omega-3 fats.  These critically important fatty acids are typically only a tiny percent of your diet – maybe on the order of 1%.  But they are as important as vitamins.  In the last 100 years, our natural sources of omega – 3 fatty acids have dried up.  They have done so because our animals that we consume as meat or as dairy (milk, cheese, butter, eggs) have had their food sources changed.  Omega-3 fatty acids are made only by green plants (or algae in water).  They are found in grass.  When we eat grass-raised meat, or drink milk from grass-raised animals (cow, goat, sheep, camel) we get those essential and valuable fats. 

 A baby inside a mother’s womb has its brain growing explosively fast.  In fact, there are those who argue that the reason we give birth to such immature infants is that we have to get the baby out before its head gets any bigger.  Ask any women who has given birth just what it feels like to push that baby’s head out and ask if she would like to wait another week so it could get bigger…  It follows to reason that the most prevalent ingredient would have a negative impact if it wasn’t present in adequate quantities.  The worst possible food for a pregnant mother is what we find in our fast-food restaurants and in snack food.  Guess what the dominant food is in poor neighborhoods!  Instead of omega fats, fast food is loaded with destructive trans fats.

 WWW. What will work for me.  Every mother to be, and every mother of young children should have their kids on fish oil.   Better yet, if possible new mothers should breast feed.  Breast milk is the most potent source of omega 3 fats for a baby.  The American Academy of Pediatrics was the first to advocate for more fish oil in kids.  But they were too cautious.  A pregnant or new mom should be on at least an additional gram of DHA and EPA a day.  A newborn child should also be on some additional fish oil for the first 5 years of their life.  You can buy pleasant-tasting liquid fish oil at any compounding pharmacy.   Now, it’s good for babies.  It’s good for you too.

This column was written by Dr. John Whitcomb, MD, Brookfield Longevity, Brookfield, WI.