Fish oil or Omega-3 fatty acids are widely regarded as beneficial. However, the evidence on benefits for children’s learning and behaviour is clearly not as strong as previously thought, say experts.
Fish oil — rich in omega 3 — does not improve memory function in small children, finds a study contradicting the popular health benefits related to fatty acids supplements. Previous studies have shown a relationship between omega-3s, the fatty acids in many types of fish, and improved intelligence.
However, the new study found that omega-3 supplements do not have any beneficial effect on the reading abilities and working memory of school children, especially with learning needs such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). “Fish oil or Omega-3 fatty acids are widely regarded as beneficial. However, the evidence on benefits for children’s learning and behaviour is clearly not as strong as previously thought,” said Thees Spreckelsen, researcher at University of Oxford in England
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For the study, published in the journal Plos One, the team tested 376 children between seven to nine years of age, who ranked academically low. 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. The results confirmed that fish oil supplements did not have either any effect or had very little effect on the children’s reading ability or working memory and behaviours. However, omega-3 fatty acids from fish has been shown to prevent cancer, asthma and rhinitis risk.