Oxford University study: Omega-3 Levels Linked to Improved Cognition and Behavior in Schoolchildren

screamBlood levels of DHA and other omega-3s are directly related to measures of cognition and behavior in schoolchildren with below average reading ability, says a new study from the UK.

Data from 493 British schoolchildren also showed that the levels were also low relative to adult cardiovascular health recommendations, report researchers from the Centre for Evidence-Based Intervention at the University of Oxford.

“The finding that low-Omega-3 LC-PUFA, and DHA in particular, predict behavior and learning problems in this large sample of healthy, but underperforming children attending mainstream schools suggests that the benefits from dietary supplementation found in ADHD and related conditions may extend to a wider population,” they wrote in the journal PLOS ONE . “This question can only be addressed by well-powered intervention studies, but meanwhile, the low blood Omega-3 status found across this sample would indicate that an increased dietary intake might be beneficial on general health grounds.”

Commenting independently on the results of the study, Harry Rice, PhD, VP of regulatory & scientific affairs for the Global Organization for EPA and DHA Omega-3s (GOED) stated, “In this study, the LC O-3 status of the children was frighteningly low, particularly given that adequate levels of DHA are critical for normal brain and nervous system development. It stands to reason that these children would under-perform in school. “Results from this study provide further evidence for the need to increase long-chain omega-3 intake in this vulnerable population, the future of tomorrow.”

The study follows earlier data from the DOLAB study published in PLOS last year. Findings showed that DHA supplementation (600 mg/d) had a robust impact in aiding ‘underperforming’ children.

Richardson explained that it is well-known and documented that the critical period for omega-3 impacts on brain function is early on; pre-natal especially. “This is what makes the findings all the more impressive as it showed DHA impact well outside the most critical period,” Richardson said. “We have shown that in the mainstream, general population, something as simple and safe as DHA can benefit reading abilities.”

For the new study, the researchers measured blood fatty acids from 493 seven to nine year olds with below average reading performance. Results showed that DHA and EPA accounted for only 1.9% and 0.55% of total blood fatty acids, respectively. “Concentrations below 4% EPA+DHA in red cell membranes (i.e. the Omega-3 index) are considered to signify high cardiovascular risk, and 8–12% the optimal range,” wrote the researchers. “The longer term implications of the very low values found in these UK schoolchildren obviously cannot be known, but give cause for concern.”

Additional number crunching revealed that lower DHA concentrations were associated with poorer reading ability, working memory, and higher oppositional behavior and emotional ability.

“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”

Authors: Paul Montgomery, Jennifer R. Burton, Richard P. Sewell, Thees F. Spreckelsen, Alexandra J. Richardson

Weekly Abstracts:

Omega-3 Fatty Acid Supplementation May Reduce Liver Size, Facilitating Laparscopic Roux-en-Y Gastric Bypass Surgery


“Preoperative 4-Week Supplementation with Omega-3 Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids Reduces Liver Volume and Facilitates Bariatric Surgery in Morbidly Obese Patients,” Iannelli A, Martini F, et al, Obes Surg, 2013 May 19; [Epub ahead of print]. (Address: Service de Chirurgie Digestive et Transplantation Hépatique, Centre Hospitalier Universitaire de Nice, Hôpital de l’Archet, Pôle Digestif, 151 Route Saint-Antoine de Ginestière, BP 3079, Nice, 06202, Cedex 3, France. E-mail: antonio_iannelli@hotmail.com ).

In a study involving 20 morbidly obese subjects, supplementation with omega-3 fatty acids (1500 mg/d) for a period of 4 weeks before undergoing laparascopic Roux-en Y gastric bypass surgery was found to be associated with a significant (20%) reduction in volume of the left hepatic lobe (from 598 to 484 cm(3)), which facilitated easeful access to the gastroesophageal junction by the surgeon in order to perform the gastric bypass surgery. (Enlargement of the liver as a results of non-alcoholic fatty livery disease is common among obese patients and can impair access to the gastro-esophageal junction during surgery).

Omega-3 Fatty Acids May be a Potent Cardioprotective Adjunct during Bypass Grafting


“Myocardial protection during elective coronary artery bypasses grafting by pretreatment with omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids,” Veljovic M, et al, Vojnosanit Pregl, 2013 May; 70(5):484-92. (Address: Clinic of Anesthesiology and Intensive Care, Clinic of Cardiac Surgery, Military Medical Academy, Belgrade, Serbia. E-mail: milic1210@yahoo.com).

In a randomized, placebo-controlled study involving 40 patients undergoing elective coronary artery bypass grafting (CABG), treatment with omega-3 PUFAs administered preoperatively promoted early metabolic recovery of the heart after elective CABG and improved myocardial protection. Researchers concluded that “omega-3 emulsion should not be considered only as a nutritional supplement but also as a clinically safe and potent cardioprotective adjunct during CPB.”

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