To grasp how insanely popular fish oil has become, go to the vitamin section of any drugstore. A large and confusing choice of fish oil and omega-3 supplements face you. Fish oil is heavily marketed to kids, sometimes for valid reasons, but which kind should you buy? This article describes the best supplements to consider for kids and the types to avoid.

Fish Oil CapsulesCredit:

Should Children Take Fish Oil Supplements?

Fish oil has omega-3 fatty acids (DHA and EPA) that experts believe are important for children's brain and eye development. Cold water fish, from places like the North Atlantic, also called fatty fish, has the most omega-3. Some studies (but not all) show that if your child has ADHD or reading disorders, omega-3 is beneficial.[3][2]

There is less evidence that it helps children who don't have ADHD or reading problems. The best approach is to make sure your children get omega-3 in their diet. Avoid tuna, however, because it can contain mercury. If your child does not eat much fish, supplements might be useful.

Look for High Levels of Omega-3

Some supplements have very little omega-3. They are expensive, artificial candies with a bit of fish oil included. Take one popular children's gummy bear supplement - getting the daily recommended amount of HDA takes 20 gummy bears at 20 calories each, mostly from sugar. That is 400 empty calories just to get the daily recommended amount of HDA!

Avoid Artificial Ingredients

Many gummy bear supplements contain artificial ingredients. In small doses, they might be harmless, but use special care with kids. Because their bodies are small, it does not take much to affect them. Also, kids view these gummies as candy (and why not, they taste like candy). If left unsupervised they might consume them by the handful, with potentially adverse results.

Consider the Quality

Determining the quality of these supplements is difficult. You can’t always assume a higher price means higher quality. Look for types that come from the North Atlantic and are certified and tested.

Try Fish Oil Instead of Capsules

Taking fish oil instead of capsules or the candy-like gummies is a better way to get omega 3s. First, when you buy a high-quality oil, you are getting much less of the artificial “filler” that comes with most capsules.  Second, your kids are much less likely to overdose on oil, like they might with the candy-like supplements.

Some kids might object to the oil taste. If so, try the manufacturers who make a lemony type that has no noticeable fishy taste. The taste is quite agreeable, at least to this adult. But if your child does object, mix it with juice and they will never know.

Consider Vayarin if Your Child has ADHD

Vayarin is a specially-formulated fish oil supplement, available by prescription, to treat kids with ADHD and other learning developmental issues. It is specifically formulated so that the omega-3s cross the blood-brain barrier to make it more powerful and targeted than over-the-counter fish oil supplements.

Because Vayarin requires a doctor’s prescription and is expensive, consider it only if your doctor has diagnosed your child with ADHD or other developmental issues for which Vayarin has been shown to help[1].

Understand Dosage

When you compare supplements, look at the amount of EPA and DHA, not the total amount of oil. The amount of EPA and DHA in capsules can vary widely, from as little as 30 mg to over 200 mg.  The proper dosage for children is not well understood, but most sources recommend at least 100 mg. 

Note: Vayarin has much less HDA (17 mg) and EPA (43 mg) than typical supplements, but the omega 3s have more effect because of their unique ability to cross the blood-brain barrier.

Monitor the Research

Research on the benefits of omega-3 for kids (and adults) continues. Try to keep abreast of the results, as new information is becoming available constantly. If you are going to spend money on supplements, do so based on the most current scientific research.
Carlson Laboratories - Kids Very Finest Fish Oil Lemon, 6.7 fl oz liquid
Amazon Price: $19.95 $17.76 Buy Now
(price as of Dec 5, 2016)
This brand has a tolerable lemony taste. If your kids don't like it, mix it with juice.
If you want to get chewable gels instead of oil, this brand is a good choice.