12 January - 20 June 2016

Omega 3 may improve reading and concentration in children

3 July 13

Children who struggle at school may benefit from eating more fish or taking omega-3 supplements according to a study conducted by scientists at Oxford University.  Omega-3 fatty acids are found in fish and seafood and are essential for the brain’s structure and function, as well as for cardiovascular and immune system health. The study published in PLOS One notes that previous research has shown that low intakes of omega-3 fatty acids may contribute to a wide range of physical and mental health disorders including childhood behaviour, learning difficulties such as ADHD, dyslexia, dyspraxia and related conditions.  The study involved nearly 500 children aged between 7 and 9 with below average reading skills. Montgomery et al. measured levels of omega-3 in blood samples using a gas-liquid chromatography method and asked their parents to comment on their child’s standard diet. Reading levels and working memory were assessed using a range of tests. Behaviour of the children was assessed by both parents and teachers using rating scales. Montgomery et al. found that almost nine out of 10 children are eating fish less than twice a week and nearly one in 10 has never consumed fish at all.  On average EPA and DHA together accounted for just 2.45% of the children's total blood fatty acids, in contrast to the recommended minimum of 4% in adults.  The scientists found that lower DHA concentrations were associated with poorer reading ability and working memory performance.  Lower DHA was also associated with higher levels of parent rated oppositional behaviour and emotional lability. 

A recent study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition has investigated long term effects of long chain polyunsaturated fatty acid intake on childhood cognitive outcomes.  The study involved 81 children, who were randomly assigned to either receive a control formula, or receive formulas containing either 0.32% of fatty acids from DHA, 0.63% from DHA or 0.96% from DHA.  The children were fed the study formulas for the first 12 months after delivery.  The infants were re-enrolled at 18 months and cognitive tests were carried out every 6 months until they reached 6 years old.  Colombo et al. report that at 18 months of age there were no significant differences between the control and DHA fed groups, in terms of language and performance.   However, from three to six years of age, the researchers observed positive effects for rule-learning and inhibition tasks, vocabulary and IQ.   The effect was mostly seen in the groups receiving the lower doses of DHA, except for a standardised test on cognitive performance for which the higher dose group showed better performance.

RSSL's Lipids Laboratory, part of the Investigative Analysis Team has expertise in all aspects of fat analysis and fatty acid profiling, including the determination of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. For more information please contact Customer Services on Freephone 0800 243482 or email enquiries@rssl.com

RSSL's Lipids Laboratory, part of the Investigative Analysis Team can analyse for docosahexaenoic and arachidonic acids. For more information please contact Customer Services on Freephone 0800 243482 or email enquiries@rssl.com

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