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Omega fatty acids could be key to brain health in children

New research from King’s College London and China Medical University in Taichung, Taiwan shows that omega-3 fish oil supplements improve attention among children and adolescents with ADHD that have low levels of omega-3 in their blood.

This was a randomised controlled trial involving 92 children with ADHD aged 6-18 who were given 1.2g daily of the omega-3 fatty acid EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) or a placebo for 12 weeks.  The researchers found that children with the lowest blood levels of EPA showed improvements in focused attention and vigilance after taking the omega-3 supplements.

Of note is that the children in this study were not given DHA as well as EPA. Whilst EPA blood levels increased in the study, DHA levels did not. Although EPA is converted to DHA in the body, conversion can be quite poor. Increased intakes of both DHA and EPA modify cell membranes and are involved in brain and eye development.

Low intakes of both EPA and DHA have been associated with child development disorders such as ADHD and dyslexia. Had the study supplementation incorporated DHA, benefits might have been observed in all groups of children and adolescents with a range of pre-existing blood levels of both DHA and EPA, not just those with low blood levels of EPA.