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Omega 3 Complex

According to an article in The Independent, three years ago Elliot Best’s report cards said “Could do better.” He was 8 years old, apathetic in school, found reading “boring,” and at home preferred to lie on the sofa and watch TV than do his homework.

In the space of a few weeks in 2002, however, all that changed and Elliot became a bookworm who tore through Harry Potter and developed a passion for classical music and a talent for story telling. Within three months, his reading age advanced 18 months and he gained top marks in his SAT tests at the end of the school year.

The catalyst for this apparently miraculous change was half a gram of EPA-rich fish oil, delivered daily at Elliot’s school by researchers undertaking the largest ever investigation into thelink between intelligence, behavior, and nutrition. Elliot was one of 117 underachieving children ages between 5-12, from 12 Durham schools who took part in a ground breaking study to test the impact of a daily dose of omega-3 rich fish oil.

The children were selected on the basis that they were not fulfilling their potential, but their general ability was normal. They were subjected to regular tests to measure their co-ordination, concentration, and academic ability.

The study followed an experimental method called randomized double-blind controlled trial. Half the children were given capsules of omega-3 fatty acid containing 500mg of EPA for three months, while the other half received a placebo (olive oil). Neither the children nor those evaluating their progress knew which group was taking which treatment.

Treatment for 3 months in parallel groups was followed by a one-way crossover from placebo to active treatment for a further 3 months. Following the cross-over, similar changes were seen in the placebo-active group, while children continuing with active treatment maintained or improved their progress.

The Durham Trial was conducted by Dr. Alex Richardson, a senior research fellow in physiology at Mansfield College, University of Oxford and Madeline Portwood, a special educational psychologist for Durham Local Education Authority (LEA).

Dr. Richardson’s research is based on the premise that people with dyslexia and related conditions may be deficient in essential fatty acids, which are important for brain function, possibly because of a dependence on heavily processed foods or a failure to metabolize them properly.

The results of the trial, published in the US Journal Pediatrics in May 2005, were very clear. Compared with the expected progress for normal children, the recipients of the supplements improved progress for normal children, the recipients of the supplements improved their reading ability at more than three times the normal rate; and more than twice the rate in spelling, over three months of treatment. There was also significant improvement in their ADHD symptoms.




Essential Fatty Acids and the Brain

Although the diagnoses of ADHD and other learning disorders is on the rise, it is comforting to know there may be a natural alternative to drug therapy for children. Current practice within our education and health care systems involves separate diagnostic labels for each of the various disorders. And, because of the different ways in which these conditions are defined, identification and management of each is usually by different professional specialists. If dyslexia were the diagnosis, you would be referred to an educational psychologists; if your doctor pinpointed dyspraxia, you would be making an appointment with the physiologist; if you were told your child was ADHD then you could find yourself at the door of a pediatric psychiatrist, with stimulant medication as the standard treatment.

What most parents donÕt know is that according to neuroscientists investigating whatÕs going on in the brains of our kids, there may be no need to give each of these disorders a different name, as if you bring it all down to the molecular level whatÕs happening is the exact same biological function.

The link between these conditions first came to light when researchers realized that few kids presented with just one or the other disorder and that overlap between them was high. Between ADHD and dyslexia, for example, the overlap ranges from 30%-50%; between ADHD and dyspraxia and between dyslexia and dyspraxia it is 50%. More boys (4:1 with dyspraxia) are affected than girls.

So all along it may turn out that your child should have been seeing a nutritionists, as what the new research is suggesting is that all of these behavioral problems ay be linked by an underlying inability to convert essential fatty acids (EFAs) in the diet into the highly unsaturated fatty acids (HUFAs) Ð which are critical to healthy brain functioning and thus behavior and performance.

New Research

Several research projects in the past years have brought our attention to the biological basis of these struggles, specifically a difficulty with fatty metabolism. They have highlighted the relationship between learning, behavior, and attention disorders and essential fatty acid deficiency in children. The more recent studies corroborate the ones done twenty years ago suggesting omega-3 deficiency might contribute to hyperactive attention deficit disorder.

Following is just a sample of the research conducted with kids and omega-3:

Omega Fatty Acids Help ADHD Kids

In a 1981 study, reported in the journal Medical Hypothesis, a large number of hyperactive children showed deficiencies in essential fatty acids. That particular study revealed that boys have a three times higher need for the essential fatty acids than the girls. This might be one explanation for the larger number of boys experiencing difficulties in various areas of learning and behavior.


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