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Study Shows Omega-3 Fatty Acids Help Children with ADD

You probably have heard about the health benefits of Omega-3 fatty acids, including their beneficial effects on the rate of heart disease, high cholesterol levels, dementia and arthritis. But now it looks like Omega-3’s may also help to prevent attention deficit in children. Let’s see what's been uncovered in this exciting discovery . . .

A new study from France and Israel’s Enzymotec showed that omega-3 fatty acids could improve attention scores for children.

Omega 3 fats have long been known to have beneficial effects on the rate of heart disease, high cholesterol levels, dementia and arthritis.  But because omega-3 fatty acids have been recognized in helping to increase attention, the fatty acids have also now been linked to helping or preventing attention deficit in children or adults.

Children who added a supplement of omega-3 fatty acids in the form of phospholipids had changes in their fatty acid profile and also increased their Test of Variables Attention (TOVA) scores.  These children that were part of the randomized double-blind clinical trial were those who had low attention performance.

According to the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, "To the best of our knowledge, the randomized controlled trial presented herein is the first short-term intervention study with omega-3 long chain polyunsaturated fatty acids (LC-PUFAs) to show a correlation between these biochemical and cognitive function outcomes.”

Children were also given supplements of omega-3 acids in the triacylglycerol form.  Interestingly, this form produced different fatty acid profiles in the children than those who took the phospholipids form.  When the children were compared by their TOVA scores, those with the triacylglycerol form had significantly lower scores than those who took the phospholipids form.

Because of studies like the new randomized, double blind, placebo-controlled trial that was supported by Enzymotec, companies such as the UK’s Food Standards Agency (FSA) will likely take another look at the connection between omega-3 fatty acids and improved attention.

The Study
According to the recent report, the study randomly assigned 60 children between the ages of 8 and 13 to take daily supplements of 250 mg per day of eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) esterified to phospholipids omega-3 (300 mg/d phosphatidylserine, Enzymotec) or as triacylglycerol (fish oil, Ocean Nutrition), or placebo for three months.

“Increases in levels of EPA, docosapentaenoic acid (DPA), and DHA were observed in the phospolipid part of the blood, increases of 1.5-2.2 fold, 1.2-fold, and 1.3-fold respectively, in both fish oil and phosphatidylserine groups.”

“In red blood cells (erythrocytes) only supplementation with the phospholipids omega-3 produced significant 30 percent reductions in levels of very-long-chain saturated fatty acids. This was accompanied by 1.2- and 2.2-fold increases in linoleic acid and DPA, respectively,” according to the researchers.

As far as the study goes with the children, both groups that were supplemented with omega-3 had increased TOVA scores.  The breakdown included an amazing 94 percent in the PL-omega-3 group and 37 percent in the fish oil group.

The third group, which consisted of children who took only a placebo, had no changes in their TOVA scores.

"Our findings suggest that providing preparations with a high EPA/DHA ratio could affect visual sustained attention performance, even at subgram amounts, in pediatric populations," wrote Jacques Bodennec, lead researcher in the study, and his colleagues.

"A better understanding of the physiology of omega-3 LC-PUFAs and the role of their carriers throughout the metabolic process in children with omega-3 LC-PUFA deficiency could place the results of the current investigation in clearer context.

"In the meantime, these observations could assist in planning future trials of the role of omega-3 LC-PUFA carriers in psychiatric as well as in healthy pediatric populations," they concluded.

How can children get omega-3 fatty acids in their daily diet?

If you can get your children to include fish in their diets, that would be an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids, especially fish such as salmon, herring, mackerel, anchovies, sardines and tuna.  You can also include walnuts. 

If your child is not a fish or walnut eater, there are supplements available.  This is an excellent way to get the benefits of fish oil, without the taste.

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