11DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) is an omega-3 fatty acid sometimes used to improve health in children. Found naturally in oily fish and in seaweed, DHA is also available in supplement form.
Uses for DHA
Since DHA is essential for neurological and visual development, in alternative medicine, DHA supplements are thought to enhance brain function and vision in children. In addition, DHA supplements are purported to treat certain health problems in children, such as allergies, asthma, and attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder(ADHD).
Benefits of DHA for Children
Here's a look at some key study findings on the benefits of DHA for children:
DHA deficiency may be common among children with ADHD, according to a report published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition in 2000. However, it's not known whether DHA supplements can help treat ADHD in children.
For instance, in a 2001 study from the Journal of Pediatrics, researchers found that four months of DHA supplementation failed to decrease symptoms in a group of children with ADHD. The study involved 63 six- to 12-year-old children, each of whom received 345 mg of DHA or a placebo daily. Given this finding -- and an overall lack of evidence for the effectiveness of DHA in treating ADHD in children -- it's too soon to recommend DHA supplements as a treatment for ADHD in children.
2) Brain Health
So far, research on DHA's effects on cognitive function in children has yielded mixed results.
For example, a 2009 study of 90 healthy children ages 10 to 12 (published inNutritional Neuroscience) found that eight weeks of DHA supplementation did not have beneficial effect on brain function.
On the other hand, a 2008 study of 175 healthy four-year-old children (published inClinical Pediatrics) found that higher blood levels of DHA were linked to higher scores on vocabulary tests.
However, this study did not specifically test the use of DHA supplements (and its potential to improve test scores). Therefore, DHA's effectiveness in improving cognitive function in children remains unclear.
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