Omega 3 does not improve children's learning abilities, study finds

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05 Mar 2018 --- New research has found no evidence omega 3 fish oil supplements help aid or improve the reading ability or memory function of underperforming schoolchildren. These findings are in contradiction to an earlier study – in 2012 – run by the same team using the same supplement.

The past study, published in PLOS ONE, found omega 3 supplements to have a beneficial effect on the reading ability and working memory of school children with learning needs, such as ADHD.

In this second study, the team from the Universities of Birmingham and Oxford tested 376 children aged 7–9 years old, learning to read, but in the bottom quartile in terms of their ability.

Half of the children took a daily omega 3 fish oil supplement and the remaining children took a placebo for 16 weeks.

Their reading and working memories were tested before and after by their parents at home and teachers in school – with no real differences found in the outcomes regarding their reading abilities, working memory and behaviors. 

Professor Paul Montgomery, University of Birmingham, who led the research said: “We are all keen to help kids who are struggling at school and in these times of limited resources, my view is that funds should be spent on more promising interventions. The effects here, while good for a few kids, were not substantial for the many.”

The benefits of omega 3 are largely regarded as beneficial. NutritionInsight has reported widely on its health benefits – such as during pregnancy – yet this research casts some doubt over the direct link between omega 3 supplements and learning behaviors.

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