Montgomery P, Spreckelsen TF, Burton A, Burton JR, Richardson AJ. (2018) PLOS One Feb 20, https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0192909
Omega-3 fatty acids are central to brain-development of children. Evidence from clinical trials and systematic reviews demonstrates the potential of long-chain Omega-3 supplementation for learning and behavior. However, findings are inconclusive and in need of robust replication studies since such work is lacking.
Replication of the 2012 DOLAB 1 study findings that a dietary supplementation with the long-chain omega-3 docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) had beneficial effects on the reading, working memory, and behavior of healthy schoolchildren.
Parallel group, fixed-dose, randomized (minimization, 30% random element), double-blind, placebo-controlled trial (RCT).
Mainstream primary schools (n = 84) from five counties in the UK in 2012–2015.
Healthy children aged 7–9 underperforming in reading (<20th centile). 1230 invited, 376 met study criteria.
600 mg/day DHA (from algal oil), placebo: taste/color matched corn/soybean oil; for 16 weeks.
Age-standardized measures of reading, working memory, and behavior, parent-rated and as secondary outcome teacher-rated.
376 children were randomized. Reading, working memory, and behavior change scores showed no consistent differences between intervention and placebo group. Some behavioral subscales showed minor group differences.
This RCT did not replicate results of the earlier DOLAB 1 study on the effectiveness of nutritional supplementation with DHA for learning and behavior. Possible reasons are discussed, particularly regarding the replication of complex interventions.
In the current study - which involved 376 children from the lowest 20% of all readers - measures of sleep could not be included owing to resource constraints. For the primary outcomes of reading, working memory, or behaviour (ADHD-type symptoms), results showed no group differences.
Possible reasons for this failure to replicate the DOLAB 1 findings are discussed in the article, which is open access.
For more information on clinical trials of omega-3 in children, see also:
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