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The importance of Omega 3 & 6 in child development

Published: 15 June, 2015 - Updated: 30 July, 2020 | 1'


Polyunsaturated fatty acids like Omega 3 play a key role during gestation, pre-weaning period and childhood, as they are constituents of cell membrane phospholipids and of the structure of neurons. The demand for this fatty acids goes up in these periods of tissue growth. As a consequence, the demand for essential fatty acids in pregnant women and the fetus as well as in pre-weaning babies is very high.

Countless studies prove the positive effect of Omega-3 supplementation on mental development. Premature babies who were fed with a formula containing Omega-3 fatty acids showed better results in the Mental Development Index of the Bayley Scale, related to language development.

The Official Journal of the European Union has recently published the recommended nutritional intakes for essential fatty acids, indicating that Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids are necessary for normal growth in children. Their beneficial effect is obtained when daily intake of these fatty acids reaches 1 % of total energy intake in case of linoleic acid and 2 % for α-linolenic acid.

These fatty acids are essential because:

  • They favour normal child growth.
  • They are fundamental for forming and maintaining the structure and function of the immune system and are essential for the  visual function. Both make up  more than 30% of the lipids present in the brain  and in the cones and rods of the retina. Clinical studies have proved that babies and children who did not take enough amount of Omega-3 and Omega-6 during gestation and the first months of life experienced disorders in the functionality of nerve and eye tissues.
  • They stimulate mental development in premature babies. There exist studies showing that an Omega 3-rich diet in the first months of life improves the ability of children with retarded growth to lose problems in a way that they reach the normal level. It has also been reported that low birth weight babies who got administered Omega-3 from early stages show a higher level of mental and psychomotor development at the 19th month of life.
  • They have a positive effect on skin. It has been observed that Omega-6 intake has a positive effect on certain skin conditions.