Fatty Acid from Fish Is Brain Food for Kids
Children in the lowest 20% for reading who received DHA improved slightly more
More and more, science supports fish oil's reputation as brain food. The latest evidence comes from a study that found both reading and behavior improved in primary school-aged children who were reading below their grade level after supplementing with the omega-3 fatty acid DHA (docosahexaenoic acid).
Giving the brain a boost
The study, published in PLoS One, included 362 reading-challenged children from 6 to 10 years old attending primary school in Oxfordshire, UK. All of the children ate fish no more than twice per week and had reading scores in the lowest 33% for their age, which means that their reading ability was approximately 18 months below the expectation for their actual age. They were given either 600 mg of DHA or a similar amount of a corn and soybean oil blend every day for 16 weeks.
Reading and behavior improve
To assess the effect of DHA, reading and memory tests were performed, and parents and teachers filled out questionnaires about the children's behavior, at the beginning and end of the study. The assessments showed the following:
"This study provides the first evidence that dietary supplementation with the omega-3 [fatty acid] DHA might improve both the behavior and the learning of healthy children from the general school population," the study's authors said. They further pointed out that, based on their findings, "DHA supplementation should be regarded as a targeted intervention for the poorest readers, rather than as a universal [approach]."
Nourishing your child to help them learn
DHA is an omega-3 fatty acid found in fish and fish oil, which, along with EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid), is known to be important for normal brain and nervous system development, and there is growing evidence that low intakes of EPA and DHA are associated with learning and behavior problems in children.
Here are some things to consider if your child needs support for reading and behavior difficulties:
(PLoS One 2012;7:e43909. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0043909)
Maureen Williams, ND, completed her doctorate in naturopathic medicine at Bastyr University in Seattle and has been in private practice since 1995. With an abiding commitment to access to care, she has worked in free clinics in the US and Canada, and in rural clinics in Guatemala and Honduras where she has studied traditional herbal medicine. She currently lives and practices in Victoria, BC, and lectures and writes extensively for both professional and community audiences on topics including family nutrition, menopause, anxiety and depression, heart disease, cancer, and easing stress. Dr. Williams is a regular contributor to Healthnotes Newswire.