Food and Behaviour Research

Donate Log In

Feeding Better Mood, Behaviour, Learning and Sleep - Evidence and Best Practice - BOOK HERE

Omega-3 reduces anti-social behaviour in kids: Long term study

Anne Bruce

5735b36a59343 - Credit CC0 public domain

High-dose omega-3 supplementation can reduce anti-social behaviour in children - and alter parent attitudes - a 2-year study has found.


This randomised controlled trial found that supplementation for 6 months with the long-chain omega-3 fats found in fish oils (EPA and DHA) led to significant reductions in aggressive and antisocial behaviour in children that were evident 6 months after supplementation was discontinued.

Two things of interest about this trial are

(1) that the improvements in children's behaviour did not reach significance at the 6 month point, but were evident at 12 months; and
(2) they were also partly mediated by reductions in aggressive and antisocial behaviour in their parents (assessed via self-report).

Not many clinical trials involve such long-term follow-up; nor do most studies of children measure parental behaviour.  However,
  • It actually takes 3 months for brain DHA levels to recover after chronic dietary deficiency (so many trials of omega-3 for brain health may be too short to allow the full benefits of supplementation to become apparent)
  • Behaviour always reflects many factors - and it's not hard to see how aggessive or other 'negative' behaviours (from either children or parents) may provoke reactions within the family that could be self-reinforcing, while conversely, positive behaviours are likely to lead to more harmonious and positive relationships and behaviours.
Further trials with long-term followup - and ideally involving supplementation of parents as well as children - could help to clarify these kinds of interactions.

Meanwhile, many other clinical trials have already shown that an increased intake of long-chain omega-3 can benefit many aspects of mood, behaviour and cognition in both adults and children.

These essential nutrients are typically lacking from modern diets, have established benefits for general health, are safe and well-tolerated, and can be used as an adjunct to other management approaches.

Given the accumulating evidence of potential benefits, there seems little reason not to consider increasing EPA/DHA intake (via diet or supplements) for any persistent child behaviour and/or adult mental health problems.

For details of this research, see: 

For more news articles on links between nutrition and anti-social behaviour, see:


And for more information on this subject, please see the following lists of news and research, which are regularly updated:


4 September 2014 - Nutraingredients

High-dose omega-3 supplementation can reduce anti-social behaviour in children - and alter parent attitudes - a 2-year study has found.

The research, published in the Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, gave a juice drink containing 1000 mg of omega-3 or placebo to two groups of 100 children. 

It found six months of daily supplementation resulted in a 41.6% reduction in parent-rated child externalised behaviour problems when given to the 8-16-year-olds. The behaviour changes were measured six months after after treatment ended.

The study also found that giving children omega-3 resulted in improvements in anti-social behaviour in their caregivers compared to controls.

Professor David Smith, Professor Emeritus of Pharmacology at Oxford University commented: “This is a very interesting and well-performed study. What is striking is that the effect was found six months after the end of a six-month treatment period, but was not apparent immediately after the end of treatment. More than half the improvement was associated with a change in the parents’ attitudes.”

The juice, provided by Norwegian firm, Smartfish, contained 300 mg of DHA (docosahexaenoic acid), 200 mg of EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid), 400 mg of ALA (alpha-linolenic acid) and 100 mg of DPA (docosapentaenoic acid).

A similar long-term reduction (68.4%) was observed for internalised behaviours such as childhood depression.

Not just about the kids…"important social implications"

Reductions in parental psychopathy accounted for 60.9% of the improvement in child antisocial behaviour, concluded the research team, which was led by professor Adrian Raine, of the Richard Perry University Departments of Criminology, Psychiatry, and Psychology in Philadelphia.

He told Nutraingredients the study appears to reduce problem behaviour in parents as well as children, which was likely because when children are easier to deal with, their parents are less stressed.

He commented: “It is the first study to document long-term reductions in child behaviour problems with omega-3. Future research needs to assess even longer-term outcomes of this treatment, as well as what the optimum dose of omega-3 is for a child to have beneficial effects.”