Monday, March 15, 2010

Supplements—DHA & EPA

What is it?
Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) is an omega-3 essential fatty acid derived from fish oil. Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) is another omega-3 fatty acid and it is often found in products that contain DHA.

Why would I want to give it to my child?
DHA is required in high levels by the brain and retina as an essential nutrient to provide for optimal neuronal functioning (learning ability, mental development) and visual acuity.

Studies have been done on children with autism and with other developmental differences, and the results showed that after 3 months of taking DHA & EPA, there was a 6 month improvement in reading and spelling levels, as well as significant behavioral improvements.

When I asked our developmental pediatrician about omega-3 oil, he said that there is proof that it has positive impact on brain development in infants and children. I had already been using it for a while but this was reassuring to hear.

Where can I get it?
Moms can start introducing omega-3 during pregnancy by taking fish oil supplements. Then later your baby can continue to receive DHA & EPA through your breast milk. Some formulas are enhanced with DHA, (but as far as I know, only Baby’s Only by Nature’s One derives the DHA from eggs. More on this topic under side effects.) Omega-3s can also be found in enhanced milk as well as in enhanced eggs (I wonder what those chickies eat).

Children's DHAThe easiest way to get it, and one of the safest, is through Nordic Naturals Children's DHA which has the highest omega-3 level of any cod liver oil. Nordic Naturals products have consistently high standards and test under the maximum allowances for toxins and heavy metals.

There is also a plant derived omega-3 fatty acid, a-linolenic acid (ALA), but the metabolic conversion of ALA to DHA/EPA (combined) by metabolism is very limited in humans and certain forms of ALA have risks associated with taking them.

What are the side effects and risks?
One of the positive side affects of taking omega-3 oil is that it helps to keep your baby from becoming constipated. Like some other oils, it helps to keep things moving along.

The Nordic Naturals website lists possible repeating (or spitting up) as a side effect. It says if this happens it could be because, “your body may not be manufacturing enough lipase, the digestive enzyme our bodies make to digest fats and oils. If you haven't ingested fish oils for a long time, it might take a week or so for your body to adjust and make more of this enzyme.”

Aside from that, I have found no other negative feedback associated with the Nordic Naturals omega-3 fatty acids, DHA & EPA.

Mercury and other toxins are a risk associated with some brands of omega-3 oils so do brand research before you purchase an omega-3 supplement.

Several sites mention dangers in the processing of ALA oils, Mortierella alpina oil and Crypthecodinium cohnii oil (sometimes listed as M. alpina oil and C. cohnii oil). These oils are extracted from fermented fungus and algae with a neurotoxic chemical solvent. The C. cohnii oil (algae) & M. alpina oil (fungus) used in many infant formulas are treated with hexane solvent, acid, and bleach. Some infants have experienced serious adverse reactions to these additives. Hmm, I wonder why.

Based on my research I did when choosing a formula and supplements, I found that Baby’s Only formula and Nordic Naturals omega-3 oil were the safest ways to get DHA & EPA into my babies. All of my children are still taking one or both of these products.

Your Turn
Is your child taking some form of DHA supplement? If so, what are you using and what results are you seeing if any?

DHA/EPA Omega-3 Institute
Omega-3 Fish Oil Blog
Nordic Naturals
The Cornucopia Institute


  1. Lucy takes DHA. We use the Nordic Naturals liquid, though I am about to switch over to the chewables. I can't speak definitively about the positive outcomes of using it, because we also use Ginkgo Biloba extract. I began using them at the same time. I have seen a huge language and signing explosion with Lucy, as well as an increase in her focus and attention span. It's hard to say, though, whether it's the DHA, the Ginkgo, or both!

  2. I've had Nathan on Nordic Naturals fish oil (I do the peach flavored oil via oral syringe -- ewwww!) for several months now. Not positive I see a difference but I figure it's not hurting. He's had a lot of cognitive development in that same time span, but with growing kids, it's hard to know what is due to what.

  3. I have not tried this, but I will be getting on the phone with Jake's doc soon to talk about it! Thank you for the info!

  4. Thanks so much for doing the research and passing it along...Emily does not take DHA, but thanks to you I am going to mention it to her pediatrician and will likely add it to our routine.

  5. We do the Nordic's Natural DHA in my house. My 5 year old asked if she could take it too, which cracked me up - she was used to seeing Violette take medicine every day and wanted to get in on the action. So both of them take that. I have no idea if it is working or not in any real way, but they both seem to be doing very well and are generally in good physical and emotional health, so I'm not going to stop!

  6. So glad you wrote this -We love these supplements and I have passed on the information to other parents.

    I started Sam on Nordic Naturals when he was just 3months old and he has not had any reactions to it. On the contrary after reading much of the research and given the very rough start that he had I truly believe they have made a big difference for him. Another plus is that I can tell a significant difference with the dry skin when he is has not taken them..

    Growing up in Finland we were all on Cod Liver oil each and every winter, starting in October until May so I keep my daughter who is 15 also on these supplements.


  7. Yup, we use Nordic Naturals too. The problem is many people think they can buy the DHA/Omega 3 gummies at the grocery store and it will suffice, which isn't true. The most important thing to look for is a brand that is molecularly distilled ... I found a brand for me too that I order from overseas, it is crazy!

  8. Hello there. I use Garden of Life's Cod Liver Oil by Jordan Rubin. It's wonderful. I love it. I also use a homemade milk-based formula for Ella that has a lot of nutrients and vitamins in it including cod liver oil.

    Good post.

  9. Is it safe for infants?

    I know that DHA is present in brain development, but do we have clinical studies that show that taking supplements improves brain function in infants?

    How much should they have?

    I'm skeptical of alternative cures, but I'd be happy to have my mind changed in order to get something that will help baby boy.

  10. We use the nordic natural liquid and put it into her oatmeal in the morning. Been doing it for almost a year now.

    I didn't know about the dry skin thing, but we ran out last week and I haven't replace it yet and her skin IS really dry.


  11. Sheridan has been taking DHA since he was a couple weeks old. We, too, use the Nordic Naturals (we use the ones with strawberry flavor). He also takes zinc, D3, Co-Q10, iodine, and other vitamins/nutrients. Also, he takes probiotics. Love keepin' that boy healthy :)

  12. This is great info -- thanks for sharing. I don't give John Michael anything, except recently a children's multi-vit. I feel like I'm in over my head when it comes to vitamins and nutrition. Maybe I should call Sheridan's mom for some tips... sounds like she's "in the know", too.

  13. All of my kids take the NN Children's DHA. Goldie takes the liquid and the older two take the capsules. I take their Prenatal DHA. I figure, I'm nursing 2, my body needs all the help it can get! Another great post!!

  14. I had Matthew on Spectrum Essentials Toddler DHA supplement last year. It's a non-fish derived DHA. Can't say I noticed anything different with his progress or not though. The only reason I stopped giving it to him was because I was looking for Nordic Naturals in the stores (Target & Walmart & Walgreens) just to try it but didn't find it. Then he ran out of the supplement and I just never pursued it. I heard flax seed oil is also a good non-fish source of DHA. What are your thoughts on flax seed oil?

  15. Both girls are take Nordic Naturals. Brooke has chewable and Lindsey has the liquid.

  16. Thanks again for the advice - it is keeping Boston regular!!

  17. What age did you start the supplement? I've had my older two boys on Nortic Naturals, however I use the 3/6/9 formula since they were 2. Reid is 6 mo's and I am considering starting him on the DHA. Does any use BioOil?

  18. Flax seed oil has a tendency to get rancid. I've sporadically given DHA. Now weaning onto Nutrivene-D then going to add Ginkgo and DHA.

  19. Do you know of a discount code? Thank you for the help in this area, one I was unsure of. My SIL, who is a chiro, tested Seth (he's 5mo and has Ds) and he reacted to something in the Nutrivene-D formula. Any suggestions there?

    I hope this helps Seth get more regular, as that seems to be an issue, although he doesn't seem in distress and his dr said as long as he goes within 5-7 days he's ok, which he always does.

    Anyway, this is all so new, so I am enjoying your blog!


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