According to a new study in the UK, daily intake of docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), an omega-3 fatty acid and a primary component of the human brain, cerebral cortex, and skin, can enhance the performance of children with poor reading and behavioral skills.
DHA is significantly found in seafood, fish and some algae. A diet deficient in omega-3 fatty acids has always been attributed to a host of physical and mental disorders.
This research was conducted by Alex Richardson, a senior research fellow at Oxford’s Centre for Evidence-Based Intervention, and colleagues. In this study, 362 children aged between 7 and 9 whose reading skills were in the lowest fifth of the normal range were given 600mg omega-3 fatty acid pills for 16 weeks. Simultaneously, another group of candidates underwent a fixed-dose, randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial for a span of 4 months. The overall results of the study revealed that the children in the bottom 20% for literacy boosted their reading age by three weeks more than the placebo-taking group. However, children whose initial reading abilities were in the lowest third of the general population range showed no progress even after the consumption of omega-3 fatty acids.
Nevertheless, the fact that omega-3 supplements can amend the poor functioning of the brain in some children is controversial. This study has also drawn some criticism due to some contradictory findings conducted by few researchers at the Oxford University.
Despite the drawbacks, Richardson agrees that the remarkable improvement in children with low reading comprehension levels can either be confirmed or ruled out only after a follow-up work. At the same time, he believes that taking daily supplements of fatty acids will definitely not show any changes in children who are already consuming omega-3 rich foods.
Apparently, omega-3 fatty acids play an important role in the development of the brain by supporting the growth of neurons and their connections, which are packed in a dense network. Even Professor Michael Crawford, who studied DHA and brain development at the Imperial College London, believes that the chemical component is imperative for the proper development of the fetal brain. However, in order to confirm the extent of the beneficial effects of omega-3 on a child’s brain at a tender age, further studies are definitely needed.
The main problem with this study is that it involves a formed brain. For this reason, it falls short when compared to the major types of clinical trials. Most importantly the brain cannot be manipulated in a period of 16 weeks and requires constant nourishment for positive results.