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05 September 2016 - Mail Online - Children who eat plenty of oily fish may be better readers than their peers, experts say

Izzy Ferris

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Children who eat oily fish may be better readers than their peers, a new study has revealed.

Researchers discovered that young people’s reading ability significantly improved following the consumption of Omega 3.

Experts say the findings reiterate the importance of ensuring regular consumption of the fatty acid in children’s diets, through oily fish such as salmon, tuna, herring, mackerel and sardines.

Researchers discovered that young people’s reading ability significantly improved following the consumption of Omega 3, which is present in oily fish such as herring and salmon.  The new research discovered that children who took an Omega 3 and Omega 6 supplement for three months showed a larger improvement in reading ability than those who were given a placebo.

They showed significant enhancements in their reading comprehension ability, phonologic decoding time and visual analysis time.

Discussing the findings, Oxford University researcher, Dr Alex Richardson, said: ‘Should parents be trying to get their children to consume more Omega 3? Yes they should.

‘We need more parents, teachers and health professionals to be aware how important long chain Omega 3 from fish and seafood are.

‘Fish and seafood is the best way of getting it into children. Any fish and seafood makes a useful contribution, the ones that contain even more long chain Omega 3 in a serving are the oily ones.

‘If however they really can’t or won’t eat fish then it makes sense to look for a supplement with long chain Omega 3.’

The founder of the independent organisation Food and Behaviour Research, added: ‘We previously found that nine out of ten British children were not meeting the current official dietary recommendation which is to eat fish twice a week and one portion should be oily fish.

‘If parents really want to help their children’s development then they should learn something about nutrition.’

Previous research has shown the positive effects of Omega 3 and Omega 6 in children with inattention and reading difficulties.

However the latest study found that the benefits also extend to mainstream schoolchildren.

The research was carried out at the Gillberg Neuropsychiatry Centre at Goteburg University, Sweden, and studied children aged nine to 10 over a six month period.

Prior to the study, the children, taken from 12 mainstream schools in Sweden, had their reading skills assessed.

For three months half of the children were then given the fatty acid supplement, while the others received a placebo.

The Logos test – a computerised reading test – was then used to evaluate the children’s reading ability, including reading speed, visual analysis, listening skills, vocabulary tests and phonologic decoding time.

Children who took the supplement for the first three months of the trial saw a 64 per cent greater improvement in reading comprehension than those who took a placebo. They were also able to decode words 10 per cent more quickly after the three month period – five times the improvement of those in the placebo group.

The supplement takers also showed twenty times the improvement of their counterparts when it came to visual analysis tests.

During the second phase of the trial all 105 of the children, that completed the study, were given the supplement for three months. The phase saw a 16-fold increase in the rate of improvement in placebo takers when they too were handed the supplement.

Dr Emma Derbyshire, a Registered Public Health Nutritionist added: ‘Reading is so important for the development of children’s cognitive skills.

‘This latest clinical research is the first to demonstrate that if a child’s diet is supplemented with the right omega-3 and omega-6 fats, then a children’s reading ability - speed, visual analysis, listening skills, vocabulary tests and phonologic decoding time - is much greater than those who do not supplement the diet.

‘In addition, supplementation enabled even greater improvements in phonologic decoding time and visual analysis time.’