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Fatty acids may help kids' behavior problems

 Fatty acids may help kids' behavior problems

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Dietary supplementation with omega-3 and other fatty acids appears to reduce the educational and behavioral problems of children with a condition termed developmental coordination disorder (DCD), UK researchers report.

"In DCD children, supplementing their diet with mainly omega-3 fatty acids led to highly significant improvements in their reading, spelling and behavior," lead investigator Dr. Alexandra J. Richardson of the University of Oxford told Reuters Health.

Moreover, symptoms typical of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, "including difficulties in attention and concentration as well as hyperactivity and impulsivity, fell markedly," Richardson continued. In fact, the benefit of the supplements seemed to be similar to that usually achieved by stimulant medication.

Richardson and co-investigator Dr. Paul Montgomery, also at the University of Oxford, studied 117 children with DCD, who were between 5 and 12 years of age. The kids were randomly assigned to dietary supplementation with omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids or inactive placebo capsules.

After three months, the placebo group crossed over to active treatment for another three months. The results, reported in the medical journal Pediatrics, support those from an earlier pilot study of by Richardson, involving children with dyslexia and attention deficit-type symptoms.

"Our research in this area as mainly focused on the omega-3 fatty acids found in fish and seafood," Richardson explained, "because they are absolutely essential for brain development and function, but are often relatively lacking from modern diets in developed countries."

"It is now very important," the researcher concluded, "to see whether the same results could be achieved with dietary interventions in other children with behavior problems attending mainstream schools."

However, she added, "Our next research studies are essentially on hold until we can find further money to continue with this work."

SOURCE: Pediatrics, May 2005.

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