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Providing perspectives on recent research into vitamins and nutritionals


Put Your Mind to Rest, Make a Plan to Consume More Omega-3 Fatty Acids

By Michael McBurney

Most people associate omega-3 fatty acids with cardiovascular. Because research shows that consumption of eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosashexaenoic acid (DHA) may reduce the risk of coronary heart disease, regulatory agencies in the United States and Europe have approved health claims.

Healthy levels of omega-3 are important for more than the heart. DHA is also structurally essential for the brain. Observational studies have found children with Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) to have low omega-3 status. Smuts and colleagues tested the impact of supplementing omega-3 (420 mg DHA and 80mg EPA for 4d/week), with and without 50 mg iron, to 98 healthy iron-deficient school children. They report that omega-3 supplementation changed physical activity during after-break class time. Iron supplementation did not. Neither regimen changed physical activity during recess (breaks).

Children with learning disabilities have lower red blood cell DHA levels. Children who responded to omega-3 supplementation had the largest increases in omega-3 fatty acid profiles. Omega-3 supplementation increased reading in children who were underperforming (bottom 1/3 of the class), and had the greatest impact in children with the lowest initial reading skills. Montgomery and colleagues reported higher blood levels of DHA correlated with better sleep in children. Now we read that omega-3 supplementation helps quiet children in the classroom. Being less busy, less distracted, helps one focus on learning and thinking.

Although not definitive (more research is always needed say the scientists), accumulating evidence confirms brains need omega-3 fatty acids to function properly.

The USDA Food Database lists 5,566 foods with DHA and EPA.  Many dietary supplement sources are available. Make a plan to increase your DHA and EPA omega-3 intake. Doing the right thing may put your mind to rest.

Main Citation

Smuts CM, Greeff J, Kvalsvig J, Zimmerman MB, Baumgartner J. Long-chain n-3 PUFA supplementation decreases physical activity during class time in iron-deficient South African children. 2014 Br J Nutr doi: 10.1017/S0007114514003493

Other Citations

Mohajeri MH, Troesch B, Weber P. Inadequate supply of vitamins and DHA in the elderly: implications for brain aging and Alzheimer’s type dementia. 2014 Nutrition doi: 10.1016/j.nut.2014.06.016

Milte CM, Sinn N, Buckley JD, Coates AM, Young RM, Howe PRC. Polyunsaturated fatty acids, cognition adn literacy in children with ADHD and without learning difficulties. 2011 J Child Health Care doi: 10.1177/1367493511403593

Johnson M, Mansson J-E, Ostlund S, Fransson G, Areskoug B, Hjalmarsson K, Landgren M, Kadesjo B, Gillberg C. Fatty acids in ADHD: plasma profiles in a placebo-controlled study of omega 3/6 fatty acids in children and adolescents. 2012 ADHD doi: 10.1007/s12402-012-0084-4

Richardson AJ, Burton JR, Sewell RP, Spreckelsen TF, Montgomery P. Docosahexaenoic acid for reading, cognition and behavior in children aged 7-9 years: A randomized controlled trial (The DOLAB Study). 2012 PLoSONE doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0043909

Montgomery P, Burton JR, Sewell RP, Spreckelsen TF, Richardson AJ. Fatty acids and sleep in UK children: subjective and pilot objective sleep results from the DOLAB study – a randomized controlled trial. 2014 J Sleep Res doi: 10.1111/jsr.12135