What's it like?
Omega-3 EFAs can be added to a child’s diet with a fish oil supplement purchased over-the-counter or online at a grocery, drug, or health-food store. The supplement can be taken one or more times every day. Children may find swallowing fish oil capsules difficult; several flavored chewable or custard-like options are available (see Resources). Alternatively, adult-sized gel caps can be squeezed into a small child's mouth or "popped" by an older child.
The recommended dosage of the omega-3 fatty acids eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) for all ages is at least 650 mg/day total (or 0.65 grams/day). Medical supervision is recommended for daily intakes above 3 grams (5, 6). There has been no research on the optimal dose for children with autism. Research on other disorders shows that the best dose of EFAs depends on the disorder, but seems to range from 1 to 2 grams per day (6, 7). Research on using EFA supplementation to treat autism and related disorders have used doses of omega-3 EFAs at 540 to 2,320 mg per day (0.5-2.3 grams/day) (8-11). If you choose omega-3 EFA supplements as an alternative therapy, ask your child's pediatrician what dose is appropriate for your child (see Is It Harmful?).
The best source of omega-3 oils for vegan and vegetarian families are flaxseed oils and several types of algae, but the EFAs from these sources are not as useful for the body as those in fish oils (3).