Enhancing DHA and EPA intake in kids has now been proven to dramatically improve reading ability, reduce ADD/ADHD symptoms, reduce behavioral problems, such as hostility and improve performance on standardized tests.

Even coordination has been shown to improve significantly, as have sleep problems, now known to be common in children. Impulsive behavior is more than an annoyance in some households; it can lead to shattered homes and dramatically impact school success, and yet impulsive behavior has now been shown to diminish with, you guessed it, increased DHA and EPA intake.

More recently, the progression of childhood psychological disorders to more serious pathologies, including schizophrenia, has been shown to be positively impacted by these amazing nutrients. Childhood depression, an increasingly recognized problem, is now known to benefit from supplementation, as well.

None of these effects should be surprising. These key fats – DHA and EPA -make up an astonishing percentage of our brains by weight (and bear in mind that our brains are 60% fat by weight). In the brain, these substances form a key part of the structure of nerve cell membranes.

Healthy nerve cell membranes are essential to the transmission of nerve signals, information processing, the formation of new memories, and the recall of information.

As our kids pass through key milestones of intellectual development, they go through “critical periods,” during which certain abilities must be developed, or forever remain under-developed. Verbal skills, reading ability, control of movement and balance, complex reasoning, and many other aspect of brain development occur in this way.

In order for our kids to develop optimal brain function, they need to get optimal amounts of these fats somehow, during these critical periods of brain development, but how? If you don’t provide this answer for your kids, it is possible that a significant portion of their intellectual potential may never be realized.

When you consider that the principal dietary source of DHA and EPA for most folks is fatty fish, and that Americans (especially kids), eat far too little of this kind of fish (salmon, halibut, tuna, sardines, shellfish), you have the makings of a nutritional quandary: we know our kids need more DHA, and that it is incredibly valuable for their developing brains, but how do we get them to take it?

There are many ways to get kids to take a high-quality, molecularly distilled (to eliminate mercury and other toxins) fish oil. I have used all of these with my boys (ages 2 and 7). My favorite is simply cultivating an appreciation of fish as a food. My 7 year old now thinks of it as a real treat to “sit down with daddy and eat sardines,” and/or canned salmon, oysters, and tuna (selected, low mercury, line caught tuna).

Kids are impressionable, as all parents know. Unfortunately, we all too often fill them with dietary prejudices that are unhealthy. Case in point is fish consumption. Sardines have been more popular in times past. Now, they are mostly an anachronism, for no good reason. Ask your friends if they enjoy sardines, and you will mostly get a scrunched-brow, “that’s icky” response.