Hydration

Adequate hydration may be one of the most important factors in setting a child up for a productive day at school.

Several studies have investigated the link between cognitive performance in children and water intake, with one finding that 84% of the children taking part were mildly dehydrated at the beginning of their school day.

Researchers showed that by giving these children water throughout the day to increase hydration status, their scores improved in auditory number span, short term memory, and verbal analogy tasks.

Considering the amount of information children are presented with throughout the school day, it is clear to see that the simple act of drinking water can go a long way in helping them succeed.

As it is common during a night's sleep for the body too loose water, having our children drink a glass or two of water in the morning will help to replace what was lost overnight (this is great for adults too!). Having a drink bottle full of water is also a great addition to any backpack, so that it may be sipped on throughout the day.

Omega-3 essential fatty acids

More than half of our brain's weight is composed of fat (60%), of which 20% of those fats being essential fatty acids docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and small amounts of omega-6 arachidonic acid. DHA is a long-chain omega-3 fatty acid that is found naturally in oily fish such as salmon, herring and sardines. A large body of information exists on the health benefits of Omega-3 essential fatty acids, including the crucial role that DHA plays in brain development and function.

As the brain continues to develop throughout all of childhood, consistent intake of DHA will have a favorable effect on cognitive development.

On a day to day basis, the supplementation of DHA may assist a child with problem solving, attention and memory. These claims may be supported by findings of low levels of omega-3 fatty acids found in children with ADHA and dyslexia.

If considering fish oil omega-3 supplementation for a child (or adult) it is important to select one of high quality. Essential qualities to look out for include; cold-pressed extraction methods, sustainably sourced, stored in a light-proof bottle or darkened glass and tested for purity and absence of heavy metals by a third-party facility. Our qualified Huckleberry Naturopaths can support you in this process.

Iron

Iron is another important player in the on-going development of a child's brain, from utero and throughout the rest of childhood. Functions such as memory, motor skills, nerve insulation, attention and the development of social interaction skills can all be negatively affected when iron levels are in a state of deficiency. Improvements in these cognitive functions have been noted after long-term (minimum 3 months) iron supplementation in iron-deficient children.

A diet that includes iron-rich foods will help maintain sufficient iron levels in the body. These foods include animal products such as red meat, poultry, liver and kidney as well as vegetarian sources such as almonds, avocados, parsley, pumpkin seeds, spinach, broccoli, and lentils. When consuming a vegetarian source of iron, the addition of vitamin c (such as a squeeze of fresh lemon juice) will assist the iron absorption.

If considering iron supplementation for your child, iron levels must be tested prior (these can be ordered through your general practitioner). Discuss the best supplementary options with our qualified Huckleberry Naturopaths.

 

-Article by Kate Dalliessi

References

Bryan, J., Osendarp, S., Hughes, D., Calvaresi, E., Baghurst, K., & Klinken, J.-W. (2004). Nutrients for Cognitive Development in School-aged Children. Nutrition Reviews, 62(8), 295–306. doi: 10.1111/j.1753-4887.2004.tb00055.x

Fadda, R., Rapinett, G., Grathwohl, D., Parisi, M., Fanari, R., Calò, C. M., & Schmitt, J. (2012). Effects of drinking supplementary water at school on cognitive performance in children. Appetite, 59(3), 730–737. doi: 10.1016/j.appet.2012.07.005

Michael K Georgieff, Nutrition and the developing brain: nutrient priorities and measurement, The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Volume 85, Issue 2, February 2007, Pages 614S–620S, https://doi.org/10.1093/ajcn/85.2.614S

Nyaradi, A., Li, J., Hickling, S., Foster, J., & Oddy, W. (2015). The Role of Nutrition in Childrens Neurocognitive Development, From Pregnancy Through Childhood. Prenatal and Childhood Nutrition, 35–77. doi: 10.1201/b18040-5