Supplements of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids may improve reading skills in school children, a new study has claimed.
Children with attention problems, in particular, may be helped in their reading with the addition of these fatty acids, researchers said.
The study included 154 school children from western Sweden in grade 3, between nine and ten years old. The children took a computer-based test (known as the Logos test) that measured their reading skills in a variety of ways, including reading speed, ability to read nonsense words and vocabulary.
The children were randomly assigned to receive either capsules with omega-3 and omega-6, or identical capsules that contained a placebo (palm oil) for three months.
The children, parents and researchers did not learn until the study was completed which children had received fatty acids and which had received the placebo.
After three months, all children received real omega-3/6 capsules for the final three months of the study.
“Even after three months, we could see that the childrens reading skills improved with the addition of fatty acids, compared with those who received the placebo,” said Mats Johnson, from Sahlgrenska Academy at University of Gothenburg in Sweden.
“This was particularly evident in the ability to read a nonsense word aloud and pronounce it correctly (phonologic decoding), and the ability to read a series of letters quickly (visual analysis time),” said Johnson.
No children diagnosed with ADHD were included in the study, but with the help of the children’s parents, the researchers could identify children who had milder attention problems.
These children attained even greater improvements in several tests, including faster reading already after three months of receiving fatty acid supplements.
“Our modern diet contains relatively little omega-3, which it is believed to have a negative effect on our children when it comes to learning, literacy and attention,” said Johnson.
“The cell membranes in the brain are largely made up of polyunsaturated fats, and there are studies that indicate that fatty acids are important for signal transmission between nerve cells and the regulation of signaling systems in the brain,” he said.
The research was published in The Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry.