Omega-3 won’t improve children’s reading skills or memory

New research has found no evidence Omega-3 fish oil supplements help aid or improve the reading ability or memory function of under-performing school children.

The University of Birmingham reports these findings are in contradiction to an earlier study run by the same team using the same supplement.

In the second high quality trial of its kind, published in PLOS-ONE, the researchers found an entirely different result to an earlier study carried out in 2012, where omega-3 supplements were found to have a beneficial effect on the reading ability and working memory of school children with learning needs such as ADHD.

In this second study, the researchers tested children who were in the bottom quarter of ability in reading, and found that fish oil supplements did not have any or very little effect on the children’s reading ability or working memory and behaviours.

The team from the Universities of Birmingham and Oxford tested three hundred and seventy six children aged between seven to nine, who were learning to read but were in the bottom quarter in terms of their ability.

Half the children took a daily Omega-3 fish oil supplement and the remaining children took a placebo for sixteen weeks.

Their reading and working memories were tested before and after by their parents at home and teachers in school, with no real differences found in the outcomes.

Professor Paul Montgomery, University of Birmingham, who led the research, said “We are all keen to help kids who are struggling at school and in these times of limited resources, my view is that funds should be spent on more promising interventions. The effects here, while good for a few kids, were not substantial for the many.”

Dr Thees Spreckelsen, University of Oxford, Co Author of the report, said “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.”

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