In a study published in the Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, researchers found that children and adolescents who were given omega-3 fatty acid supplementation demonstrated significant improvement in their behavioural problems. This is good news for anyone — parent, practitioner or patient — seeking a non-pharmacological remedy to behavioural issues in this vulnerable age group.
The double-blind, placebo-controlled, parallel-group trial of 200 children (8-16 years) randomized participants into two groups. The first group (n=100) consumed fruit drinks containing 1 g daily of omega-3 fatty acids while the other group (n=100) received fruit drinks without the omega-3s.
The omega-3s in the treatment group’s beverages comprised 300 mg of docosahexaenoic acid, 200 mg of eicosapentaenoic acid, 400 mg of alpha-linolenic acid and 100 mg of docosapentaenoic acid. Researchers documented participant and parent perceptions of behavioural problems at baseline, after 6 months of treatment and during 6 months of follow-up after treatment was suspended.
Interestingly, participant self-reports did not show improvement in the treatment group, but the parents of these same participants reported significant improvement in children’s behaviour. For example, these parents noted a 41.6% reduction in their children’s externalizing behaviour measured 6 months after the treatment period had ended. These findings remained significant even after the research team controlled for parental attitudes about the treatment, which removed any possible influence of the “placebo effect.”