New Study: Omega-3 DHA Supplementation Helps Improve Reading Performance and Behaviour in Underperforming Children

By Sharon Moore on September 11, 2012

Omega-3 fatty acids have been found to promote better health in so many ways. Studies show that they lower down bad cholesterol levels, improve brain function, lower the risk of heart disease, etc. Just recently, scientists found another amazing benefit of omega-3 fatty acids. This time, it’s exclusively for children.

The double-blind, fixed-dose, randomised, placebo-controlled study, which was carried out by the researchers from Oxford University found healthy yet underperforming children who received DHA supplementation improved their behaviours and reading skills. DHA is a key omega-3 fatty acid that is found mainly in fish and other seafood. However, the DHA source used in the study was algae, which is great for vegetarians, the researchers noted. Their findings were published in the journal Plos One, Thursday last week.

For the experiment, Oxford researchers worked with the Oxfordshire County Council’s Education Department to identify healthy children who underperformed on a standardised reading test. There were 362 children involved in the study. For 16 weeks, the subjects took 600mg a day of omega-3 DHA which was obtained from algal oil.

The results showed that children who were given DHA supplementation significantly improved their reading skills.

Children who read at or below 20th centile improved their skills by 20% over the trial period. Meanwhile, those who read at 10 centile or below improved by 50%, which according to the researchers, is greater than they expected.

Their study shows that taking daily supplements of omega-3 DHA improved the reading performance of the poorest readers, and helped them catch up with their peers. According to Paul Montgomery, a professor of Psychosocial Intervention at the Centre for Evidence-Based Intervention at Oxford University, previous studies have shown the benefit of omega-3 in children suffering from ADHD, developmental coordination disorder, and Dyslexia. However, this study is the first to show positive results from the general school population.

Aside from improving their readings skills, the subjects who had the supplementation also improved their behaviours, as reported by their parents. These include significant reduction in hyperactivity and defiant behaviour. The researchers used the standard assessment tests to screen children with ADHD. Although the average scores for the subjects fall within the normal range, those who took omega-3 ADHD reported significant benefits.

Because of the size of the study, it’s too early to tell whether the findings are applicable to other children. Currently, the Oxford researchers are setting out a larger study to determine the health benefits of omega-3 DHA to a wider population of underperforming children.


Source of this article:

Omega-3 Fatty Acids Modify Human Cortical Visual Processing—A Double-Blind, Crossover Study

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