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Womens Healthcare 2020

Importance on fish oil for good health

iStock / Getty Images Plus / Domepitipat

Ursula Walsh

Qualified Health and Nutrition Coach

In The Optimum Nutrition Bible, by Patrick Holford, he suggests that humans evolved because of the consumption of fish. If you look into history, the first places in the world where it is suggested our ancestors evolved was near water. We will never know the exact point and reason, but I strongly believe the oils from fish helped the human brain to evolve.

The fact is, oils have plenty of benefits for our health. Especially for kids. Unless your child/teen is eating two-three portions of oily fish (sardines, anchovies, mackerel, salmon) a week, an omega-3 food supplement is a must.

Essential to good health: omega-3 supports brain, eye, and heart health

The really important fatty acids are the ‘essential fatty acids’, termed ‘essential’ as the body cannot make them and therefore they must be obtained through the diet. The best source of omega-3 is oily fish; without them cells can’t renew or maintain themselves properly.  

Surprisingly, a massive 89% of Irish people are not consuming sufficient oily fish in their diet.

A range of benefits, vital for mums

Our brains contain more than 100 billion cells working together to process information, from memories and recall. Each cell has an outer membrane which is actually made up of fat (lipids). Believe it or not, the typical human brain is actually about 60% fat.

Therefore, it’s no surprise that omega-3 is so beneficial to brain health. The importance of these fatty acids becomes most obvious when they’re lacking. People who don’t get enough omega-3s in their diet can become demotivated, disinterested, forgetful and may experience low moods. 

Scientists have started to look at omega-3’s potential to help in the treatment of mood and anxiety disorders. Interestingly, Liu et al (2013) showed the people with anxiety had lower levels of omega-3 EPA and DHA compared with those without anxiety symptoms.

People who don’t get enough omega-3s in their diet can become demotivated, disinterested, forgetful and may experience low moods.

The power of omega-3s can also help to protect our cardiovascular systems, normalising and regulating triglyceride levels in the blood, reducing LDL (bad) cholesterol and increasing HDL (good) cholesterol levels.

It’s important to note that omega-3 in seeds doesn’t provide the omega-3 DHA required for brain function – oily fish is the only direct source.

Essential during pregnancy, for mother and baby

Omega-3 DHA is essential during pregnancy to ensure optimal foetal brain, eye, and immune and nervous system development.

Scientists have found that the children of women who consumed omega-3 scored well in developmental and behavioural testing, while the children of women who had no access to omega-3 DHA were more likely to report ‘suboptimal outcomes.’

Additionally, if a woman’s stores are low, this can increase the risk of postnatal depression.

Brain food for kids

Children need omega-3 for every stage of their development. Studies show that taking an omega-3 supplement actually helps kids concentrate better in school. It boosts their brains, strengthens their immune systems and lifts their mood. Without these important fats, it can become difficult for children to concentrate, learn new information, and balance their moods properly.

A 2012 study found omega-3 DHA had a profound improvement on reading age, concentration and learning ability in children, lower levels of DHA were attributed to poorer reading levels and impaired performance. DHA also supports children’s immune systems helping the body to fight off infections; making it a very important supplement during back-to-school time.

How much do I need?

Studies show that you need 250mg DHA daily to support brain health. Eating oily fish twice a week – such as salmon or sardines, provides a healthy dose of omega-3 EPA/DHA.

Not a fish fan? You can choose a high-quality fish oil supplement. Check your preferred supplement to see that you are getting adequate DHA, as often supplements can fall short.

Find out more at

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