Healthy brain function for children

Two reasonably common childhood nutritional deficiencies that may adversely impact brain health include omega-3 fatty acids and iodine. Many children are missing out on omega-s, particularly if fish is not regularly featured in their diet, and the demise of iodine sanitisers in dairy products and shift away from iodised salt, has led to an increase in iodine deficiency.

Omega-3 fatty acids
Your body cannot manufacture the omega-3 fatty acids eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) or docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) efficiently, so you are wise to obtain them from your diet. EPA and DHA are required for healthy brain function and are an integral part of cell membranes which control what goes in and out of cells. Fatty acids from fish are considered ‘good fats’ that supply a reliable source of EPA and DHA, which are both required for healthy brain function in children. There is a level of two-way conversion between EPA and DHA in your body, so where one is deficient, it can be made up from the other one.

EPA plays an important functional and regulatory role in brain health and is directly involved in the production of certain eicosanoids that help to reduce inflammation. Eicosanoids are made ‘as needed’ by the body and impact a wide range of physiological processes.

DHA is an important structural component of the brain. DHA is found in high concentrations in the brain and is taken up by the brain in preference to other fatty acids. DHA influences the function of brain cell membranes, which are important for the transmission of brain signals. By making cell membranes more fluid, omega-3 fatty acids, particularly DHA, help to improve communication between brain cells.

Mild to moderate iodine deficiency is common in school-aged children and pregnant women in the southern states of Australia. Iodine helps maintain healthy brain and cognitive function, and supplemental iodine intake may be beneficial for children's IQ levels.

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