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Article at a glance:

  • Omega 3 fats are crucial for children’s brain, eye and nervous system development
  • Back in 2005, the now famous Oxford-Durham study found that omega 3 supplements improved symptoms of ADHD and children’s reading and spelling
  • A new meta-analysis has found that omega 3 supplementation can help to improve childhood psychomotor, mental and visual development.

The links between omega 3 fatty acids and cognitive and developmental benefits in children are now firmly established. Back in 2005, the now famous Oxford-Durham study looked into the effects of fatty acid supplementation in children with developmental coordination disorder (DCD). The 2005 placebo-controlled trial involved 117 children with DCD and was led by renowned Oxford University researcher, Dr Alex Richardson. The research was later highlighted by Professor Robert Winston in the BBC series Child of Our Time.  Dr Richardson and her team found that 3 months of supplementation with polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA) (80% fish oil and 20% evening primrose oil) compared to placebo, significantly improved reading and spelling abilities of the children. The omega 3 supplement was also associated with significant reductions in ADHD-related symptoms1.

Over the years that have followed, much research has focused on omega 3s – looking into how crucial they are for many different aspects of health and wellbeing at any age, and in particular, how essential they are during the early years for brain, eye and nervous system development.

In this latest research analysis published in the Journal of Nutrition (March 2018), researchers reviewed and meta-analysed 38 randomised controlled trials (including 5541 participants) on omega 3 PUFA supplementation in mothers or infants (age < 2y) and evaluated standardised measures of cognitive or visual development up to the age of 18.

Results showed that omega 3 supplementation improved childhood psychomotor, mental and visual development.

This latest meta-analysis adds to a large body of research highlighting the vital importance of including omega 3 in your diet at every stage of life. Unfortunately, natural sources of omega 3 (nuts, seeds and oily fish) are often missing from a typical Western diet which puts many people at risk of being low in these crucial fats. Many people wisely choose to add in a daily supplement of high quality, pure and stable omega 3 fish oil to make sure they are getting their optimal daily dose. Click here to find out more about omega 3s.

Richardson AJ, Montgomery P. The Oxford-Durham study: a randomised controlled trial of dietary supplementation with fatty acids in children with developmental coordination disorder. (2005) Pediatrics 115(5) 1360-1366
2. Shulkin M, Pimpim L et al. n-3 fatty acid supplementation in mothers, preterm infants, and term infants and childhood psychomotor and visual development: a systematic review and meta-analysis.  The Journal of Nutrition, volume 148, Issue 3, 1 March 2018, Pages 409-418, https://doi.org/10.1093/jn/nxx031

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