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Seafood Omega-3 Increases Reading Age in Children

By on February 28, 2013 in National Health News with 0 Comments
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“This study provides further evidence supporting the importance of consuming seafood that contains high levels of Omega-3s, such as docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), said Dr. Stephen Pont of Austin, TX Dell Children’s Medical Center’s Texas Center for the Prevention and Treatment of Childhood Obesity. Photo: Ed Lallo/Newsroom Ink

by Ed Lallo/Newsroom Ink

Researchers at Oxford University in England are investigating the impact of omega-3 supplementation on reading ability, memory and behavior in children of elementary school age. This new research provides promising evidence on the benefits of adequate omega-3 fatty acids for children who find reading difficult.

Gulf seafood is included in seafood species that are the primary source of omega-3 fatty acids.  These fatty acids have been linked to improved health for decades, but more recently to increased brain functions.

Food for the Brain

A recent 16-week study that included children between the ages of seven and nine by Oxford University researchers found a significant improvement in reading ability within the lowest percentile of the group.

Parents whose children struggle with reading understand the importance of the recent study findings which link a daily supplement of omega-3 found in seafood with improved literacy.

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Gulf seafood is included in seafood species that are the primary source of omega-3 fatty acids. These fatty acids have been linked to improved health for decades, but more recently to increased brain functions. Photo: Ed Lallo/Newsroom Ink

Parents have found it to be difficult, despite encouragement, to get their kids to eat seafood. Omega-3 supplements may represent a potential solution, but should not completely replace creative cookery with seafood.

Some children in the study were given a daily dose of three 600mg capsules of omega-3 fatty acids – while another group of children received capsules containing vegetable oil as a comparison.

Scores/levels of reading age, working memory and behavior was assessed before and after the course of omega-3 or vegetable oil supplements by parents and teachers.

“This study supports the now routine reporting of scientific studies showing the positive effects of seafood and omega-3 fatty acid consumption on childhood development and other beneficial health effects,” said Dr. Jon Bell of Louisiana State University AgCenter and Louisiana Sea Grant. “After a large analysis of numerous studies into the risks and benefits of eating seafood, the Harvard School of Public Health has determined that the benefits of a diet rich in seafood outweigh any risks that might be associated with seafood consumption.”

According to Dr. Bell, “the popular press often reports some of these important studies and their results, but it is the few articles that are often non-scientific in nature and assert a negative outcomes from eating seafood that tend to have larger impact and effect on interest groups and consumers.

Omega-3 Reads Well

While the omega-3 supplements were found to have little effect on memory, a significant improvement in reading ability was seen in young readers in the lowest 20% of the study group. These children increased their reading age by  +more than three-weeks, and those in the lowest 10% reading ability increased their reading age by 1.9 months.

The parents of the children in the study also indicated a significant improvement in the children’s behavior, although their teachers did not report this observance.

Alex Richardson, team leader for the study, made clear that taking Omega-3 supplements would not benefit a child that already had a good intake of omega-3 fatty acids in their diet. These supplements would however make an important contribution to children whose diet was poor in these nutrients.

Richardson also highlighted the potential benefit that Omega-3 fatty acids have on children who struggle most with their reading.

Omega-3 fatty acids plays an important role in brain development, helping nerve cells to grow and attach to each other. Dietary intake of seafood during childhood can aid in this process.

Increasing Seafood Consumption

Although this study investigated the intake of omega-3 fatty acids via supplements, a diet consisting of fresh seafood that contain these same fatty acids should have a similar effect.

This study’s findings support the results of many other researchers that show the importance of including sufficient seafood within a child regular diet.

“This study supports the now routine reporting of scientific studies showing the positive effects of seafood and omega-3 fatty acid consumption on childhood development and other beneficial health effects,” said Dr. Jon Bell of Louisiana State University AgCenter and Louisiana Sea Grant. Photo: LSU Sea Grant

“This study supports the now routine reporting of scientific studies showing the positive effects of seafood and omega-3 fatty acid consumption on childhood development and other beneficial health effects,” said Dr. Jon Bell of Louisiana State University AgCenter and Louisiana Sea Grant. Photo: LSU Sea Grant

“We would all be better off if we included more Omega-3 in our diet,” said Louisiana Representative Bill Cassidy, M.D. “One of the great things about seafood is that it supplies that. If you look at diets that are healthier, we need to eat a lot more fish than we currently eat.”

Dietary surveys consistently show that most Americans fall below the recommended consumption levels for seafood and omega-3 fatty acids.

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend adults should eat between 8 to 12 ounces of seafood each week, and children should have two age-appropriate portions weekly.

“This study provides further evidence supporting the importance of consuming seafood that contains high levels of Omega-3s, such as docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), said Dr. Stephen Pont of Austin, TX Dell Children’s Medical Center’s Texas Center for the Prevention and Treatment of Childhood Obesity. “In this well designed study, the most academically challenged students displayed the most impressive results, when compared to their peers who were taking a placebo dose of vegetable oil.”

“This study reports a significant impact after only 16 weeks of taking Omega-3 supplements.  More research is needed to better describe the mechanism through which Omega-3 might be able to quickly improve reading ability.”


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