Cod Liver Oil for essential childhood nutrition

Cod Liver Oil for essential childhood nutrition

As information on good nutrition becomes increasingly available, parents are focusing more attention on what kids eat (or don’t eat) than they have in the past. And for good reason – research consistently shows that good nutrition really counts in childhood. However, many kids simply don’t get the nutrients they need, either because they’re picky about what they eat or because the healthiest foods aren’t readily available.


New generation of Cod Liver Oil for today’s kids

Many adults have unhappy childhood memories of their parents giving them fishy tasting cod liver oil. The bad news is, their disdain was not unfounded. Years ago, the importance of freshness was not well understood and some cod liver oil products were likely rancid to the point of being unhealthy. The good news is, times have changed! Freshness is now a key component of many cod liver oils on the market, and that means they deliver both better tasting, and healthier nutrients for kids.

Cod are cold-water fish that are naturally a great source of the long-chain omega-3 fats EPA and DHA. As the name suggests, cod liver oil is derived from the fatty livers of these fish, while their body flesh is used in the seafood industry. The omega-3s in cod are called “essential” fatty acids because we need them for optimal health but our bodies can’t make them-or, more accurately, we make insufficient amounts of EPA and DHA to keep us healthy. Thus, the only way to get enough is through diet which means eating foods like cold-water fish, and/or taking a daily omega-3 supplement. Rich in omega-3s, cod liver oil (CLO) is the classic choice!

Omega-3 nutrition is particularly important for children, who are undergoing rapid brain growth. From birth to age two, a child’s brains doubles in size. Spurts of development also occur around ages 7, 8 and 9, and then again during mid-adolescence. The major omega-3 fats found in cod liver oil, EPA and DHA, are important to both the brain’s structure (DHA is a major component of the cerebral cortex) and its function (DHA and EPA are linked to mood and cognition). Young eyes and developing nervous systems also benefit from these healthy fats.

Recent research has focused on omega-3 status and children’s concentration, reading ability, behaviour, intellectual development and general academic performance. It’s probably safe to say that omega-3s influence a child’s ability to think and learn, from conception through adolescence. On top of the direct cognitive and neurological benefits of good omega-3 nutrition, the academic success they support is also relevant to a child’s self-esteem, motivation to learn and overall social well-being.


How to choose a high-quality Cod Liver Oil

So that your kids don’t end up rejecting cod liver oil, it is critical to choose a CLO product that tastes good and is easy to take. Some kids like to bite into soft gels or gummies. Others prefer flavoured liquids. But, the most important thing to look for in order to ensure great taste is the freshness of the product.

Freshness of cod liver oil-or any fish oil-is a matter of protecting the omega-3 fats from oxygen. Oxygen begins to degrade the molecular structure of the fats and results in rancidity.

As many older adults remember, rancid cod liver oil smells and tastes bad, and results in “fishy” burps. Some manufacturers may try to mask rancid oil by flavouring the oil, but flavouring does not necessarily mean the product is questionable. It’s standard these days to flavour cod liver oils.

The best way to guarantee a fresh CLO product is to review third-party test results. Reputable manufacturers will make this information transparent and available so that customers know exactly what they are getting when they purchase a product. The one thing to be sure to avoid is fermented cod liver oil. Some foods are great fermented – fish oil is not one of them. It contains a high number of free fatty acids, an indication of rancidity and a potential precursor of oxidative stress. For the best results, stick with a fresh, good-tasting cod liver oil. Your kids will thank you!


by Kate Turner, MA, RD, CPT

Kate Turner, MA, RD, CPT is the Nutrition Specialist at Nordic Naturals. As a Registered Dietitian and personal trainer, Kate is passionate about improving people’s health through evidence-based nutrition education and exercise. Kate has over 7 years of experience in the field of nutrition as a wellness director, private nutrition consultant, educator, and public speaker.

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