Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Omega-3s, Boys and Some Sanity

My son Conor and I both regularly take fish oil, rich with omega-3s. Conor had behavioral and mood issues when he was younger, that had me very concerned. He was often defiant, refusing to do his work, and aggressive. He spent quite a bit of time in the principle's office when he was in kindergarden and pre-first.

A local psychiatrist suggested that I try Conor on fish oil. I had success with it myself, and if he had an inherited mood disorder, perhaps the fish oil would work for him too.

Administering fish oil to children can be a challenge. The capsules are large and one needs to take somewhere between 500-1000 mg of EPA a day for success. This can mean multiple, large capsules. Dr. Yonker suggested we try Coromega, an emulsified form of omega-3s, which comes in foil packages and can be either orange or lime flavored. Conor likes his fish oil. He takes two packages a day, which is 700 mg of EPA.

For children, who don't like the way Coromega tastes, there's another option (if they can swallow smaller capsules). Omega-Brite is a highly concentrated form of omega-3s. This brand was developed by Dr. Andrew Stoll, the researcher at Harvard Medical School, who did a lot of the initial research into the use of omega-3s for mood disorders.

Within the last couple of weeks I've had two friends ask me about fish oil for their boys' behavioral and mood issues. Both have found immediate benefits. I've never been big on anecdotal evidence, but this is encouraging. Here's a report from a study done in the UK at a school for boys with special needs:

Results from a UK study

These results support the use of omega-3s for boys who may be having difficulty in school.

I have a lot more to write about fish oil. This is just the beginning. I just had to share this information, because I know how troubled I was with Conor's issues, and I've seen how relieved my friends are with their sons' behavior now that they're taking fish oil.

We most certainly evolved with a diet that was much richer in omega-3s, than the one most of us have now. I believe that supplementing one's diet with fish oil, is simply a way to achieve a more natural biochemical state. There are no side effects and many other beneficial effects of fish oil. It's good for your heart, skin and immune system. I'll be writing next about omega-3 supplements for adults.


Heather Gibbons said...

Hi, Kim! I just read your post - very interesting - but I am wondering about mercury in fish oil. Is this a problem/issue? Are some brands better than others?

Kim Barke said...

Hi Heather,

I wondered about this too. A few years ago there was a program on WAMC about this. Alan Chartock, who used to eat salmon every day, developed mercury poisoning. He had a physician on the show, who I spoke to about this question--both mercury and PCBs. The doctor referred me to a study by Consumer Reports, which showed that of 42 different brands tested, only two failed for quality reasons, and not for contamination, but in one case a liquid was spoiled and in another the capsules only contained 50% of the amount specified.

Here's a link to the study:

CR study

Kim Barke said...

Correction--the report was done by Consumer Labs, not Consumer Reports.

Heather Gibbons said...

Thanks, Kim. I also found this (http://www.oceansalive.org/eat.cfm?subnav=fishoil&sort=Company) chart from Oceans Alive/Environmental Defense listing safety of many fish oil supplements. Apparently, contaminants like mercury and PCBs reside in fishes' flesh, rather than the oil...good to know! I've wanted to try supplements myself but was nervous about the possibility of contaminants. I feel better about it now!

Honey's mom said...

Kim, I love your blog! Just wanted to say "Hi" and let you know that we too have found fish oil to be highly beneficial. My 15 year old started taking it first (as a recommended supplement as she begins to taper off of antidepressants)- saw super results with her mood, so 8 year old daughter takes it as well. 8 year old seems more level and is doing much better in school.
Love your writing!
Honey's mom

Jude said...

hey kim.

i will have to look into chartock and hg-poisoning. i wonder if he wasn't eating other fish like swordfish or tuna. salmon is usually low in hg compared to other top tier predator fish. check out fda's table of fish and hg levels

as always kim, love to read the W&M blog ! miss you much !

Kim Barke said...

Honey's Mom--thanks for visiting and sharing your success story. Would you be willing to share more info? Brands, doses, etc.


Kim Barke said...

Hi Judy--my understanding is that he ate it every single day. I know about the relative amounts in seafood, and do choose salmon myself when I'm in a restaurant. I've given up tuna sandwiches and miss them terribly, but I believe I developed a case of mercury poisoning myself, when I ate tuna almost every day.

Thanks for visiting sweetie.

Honey's mom said...

Hi Kim, came back to see if you had a new post and noticed there were lots of new Omega 3 comments- so I checked in.
Honey and her younger sister ("Tootsie")- well, actually the whole family now, are taking "Carlson's The Very Finest Fish Oil" We take it as a liquid, though I believe they make a capsule too? I get ours at vitacost.com (get most of our supplements there as their prices are hard to beat. No, I dont work there :) spend a small fortune there once a month though, lol) The girls both take one tsp/day (1/2 tsp in am then again in the pm) which equals 1,600mg Omega 3s (epa 800mg, dha 500mg, other omega 3's 300mg)
Carlson's was recommended by the person who is helping "Honey" get free of antidepressants. I like that the product is tested regularly for purity by an independent lab- free of detectable levels of mercury- actually the bottle mentions specifically free of mercury, cadmium, lead, pcb's and 28 other contaminants.
When it was first recommended that "Honey" take fish oil, I had two thoughts... first "snake oil" (I wasn't dumb, Dont try to sell me "magic") and second, who would ever be able to get "fish oil" down and make it stay down... what a horrid taste that must have. But, even "Tootsie" who is the most finicky kid on the planet drinks it mixed in 1/2 cup of orange juice with out issue. Carlson's has a little bit of a lemony taste. Not sure how others taste, but it is fine.
As far as results go... I have the best solid "info" on "Tootsie" my youngest. She was NOT a good student, had a hard time concentrating and "getting it" as far as new information went. She had the highest jump in the history of her school 3rd graders on our states comprehensive assessments for math. (Tested in early fall and then mid winter- her improvement was the greatest that the 3rd grade teaching group had seen) She also participated as a classroom representative for the school spelling bee in Feb and though she didn't do awesome, she held her own(she has never been a good speller, let alone excellent. We have made no obvious to me changes other than the fish oil. Actually, things have been pretty chaotic here this year with my other daughter struggling with issues related to antidepressants.