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UK Study Finds Fish Oil Benefits Kids with Cognitive Deficits
5/6/2005
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Supports earlier findings that omega-3s may help improve ADD-type conditions

by Craig Weatherby


Last fall, we reported on a study showing that kids’ enjoyed small but significant advantages in attention span when their moms ate DHA-fortified foods during pregnancy. (Click here to read it.)


DHA and EPA are the two best-studied omega-3 fatty acids in fish oil, but DHA is the one most closely associated with brain function. In fact, DHA constitutes about 15 percent of the total weight of human brains (20 percent in infants), and about 60 percent of the brain’s cell membranes.


Prior studies that examined the effects of dietary DHA on behavior and learning have produced mixed results. Some found clear links between lower bodily DHA levels and increased rates of attention-deficit/hyperactivity problems, while others indicated that supplemental DHA may help kids suffering from such disorders.


However, other clinical trials failed to detect any cognitive or behavioral benefit resulting from supplemental DHA.  It may be that DHA alone is not enough, since some studies—including this one—suggest that ADD sufferers benefit from taking DHA with GLA and arachidonic acid: omega-6 fatty acids that are also critical to nerve/brain function.


Positive clinical trial from the UK

Earlier this month, British researchers reported the positive conclusions of a placebo controlled, randomized clinical trial.  The results indicate that supplementation with omega-3 fatty acids can reduce the educational and behavioral problems of children with an attention-deficit-like condition called developmental coordination disorder (DCD).


The study involved 117 young children with DCD, who received either dietary supplements with omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids—80 percent fish oil (558 mg EPA and 174 mg DHA) and 20 percent evening primrose oil—or placebo (olive oil) capsules. After three months, the kids receiving the placebo group received omega-3 capsules for another three months: a so-called “crossover” phase designed to further confirm any findings.


The authors came to very positive conclusions: “Results showed… significant improvements in reading, spelling, and behavior for active treatment versus placebo during 3 months of treatment in parallel groups. After a 1-way treatment crossover (placebo to active), similar changes were seen in the placebo crossover group, whereas children continuing with active treatment maintained or improved their progress.”


The results support those from an earlier study by Dr. Richardson, involving children with dyslexia and attention deficit symptoms.


As Dr. Richardson told Reuters Health, "Our research in this area has mainly focused on the omega-3 fatty acids found in fish and seafood, because they are absolutely essential for brain development and function, but are often relatively lacking from modern diets in developed countries."


We couldn’t have said it better!



Sources

  • Richardson AJ, Montgomery P. The Oxford-Durham study: a randomized, controlled trial of dietary supplementation with fatty acids in children with developmental coordination disorder. Pediatrics. 2005 May;115(5):1360-6.
  • Richardso AJ, Puri BK. A randomized double-blind, placebo-controlled study of the effects of supplementation with highly unsaturated fatty acids on ADHD-related symptoms in children with specific learning difficulties. Prog Neuropsychopharmacol Biol Psychiatry. 2002 Feb;26(2):233-9.
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  • Stevens L, Zhang W, Peck L, Kuczek T, Grevstad N, Mahon A, Zentall SS, Arnold LE, Burgess JR. EFA supplementation in children with inattention, hyperactivity, and other disruptive behaviors. Lipids. 2003 Oct;38(10):1007-21.
  • Voigt RG, Llorente AM, Jensen CL, Fraley JK, Berretta MC, Heird WC. A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial of docosahexaenoic acid supplementation in children with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder. J Pediatr. 2001 Aug;139(2):189-96.
  • Hirayama S, Hamazaki T, Terasawa K. Effect of docosahexaenoic acid-containing food administration on symptoms of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder - a placebo-controlled double-blind study. Eur J Clin Nutr. 2004 Mar;58(3):467-73.
  • Colombo J, Kannass KN, Shaddy DJ, Kundurthi S, Maikranz JM, Anderson CJ, Blaga OM, Carlson SE. Maternal DHA and the development of attention in infancy and toddlerhood. Child Dev 2004;75:1254-1267.
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  • Stevens L. Essential fatty acid metabolism in boys with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder. 1995 Oct. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 62:761-8.
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