Omega-3 long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids on cognitive performance and behavior in children

Thursday, Feb 01, 2018


Montgomery P, Burton JR, Sewell RP, Spreckelsen TF, Richardson AJ. Low Blood Long Chain Omega-3 Fatty Acids in UK Children Are Associated with Poor Cognitive Performance and Behavior: A Cross-Sectional Analysis from the DOLAB Study. PLoS One. 2013 Jun 24;8(6):e66697. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0066697. Link to PubMed

  • Background:
    Omega-3 long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids (LC-PUFA) play key roles in brain development and physical health in children. Increasing evidence indicates low blood omega-3 LC-PUFA in children may be contributing to behavior or learning difficulties.
  • Method:
    • Schoolchildren (n = 493) from mainstream Oxfordshire schools were selected for below average reading performance according to national assessments at age 7-9 years.
    • Drops of capillary whole blood were collected for omega-3 and omega-6 LC-PUFA analysis.
    • Reading and working memory were assessed using the British Ability Scales, and behavior was assessed by ADHD-type symptoms using Conners' rating scales.
  • Key findings:
    • Mean concentrations of docosahexaenonic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) – 1.9% and 0.55% of total blood fatty acids respectively.
    • 88.2% children ate fish less than twice a week
      - DHA, alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), total omega-3 and EPA+DHA were all significantly higher in children with higher fish consumption.
    • Controlling for sex and socio-economic status, lower DHA concentrations were associated with poorer reading ability (p < 0.042), working memory performance (p < 0.001), and higher levels of parent rated oppositional behavior and emotional lability (p < 0.0001 for both).
  • Conclusion:
    Blood concentrations of DHA and other omega-3 LC-PUFAs were positively correlated to the measures of child behavior and cognitive performance.


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