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Fish Oil Shown To Be Beneficial To Dyspraxic Children

Armen Hareyan's picture

Fish Oil and Dyspraxic Children

Fish oil has been shown to make substantial differences to dyspraxic children, in particular with respect to their reading abilities and their behaviour, according to a recent study by Oxford University researchers published in Pediatrics.

Dr Alex Richardson from the Department of Physiology and Dr Paul Montgomery from the Evidence Based Intervention Group at the Department of Social Policy and Social Work conducted a large randomised controlled trial of fish oil versus placebo in children attending schools in County Durham.

The omega-3 fatty acids found in fish oils are essential for normal brain development and function and omega-3 must be provided by the diet. Low levels of these fatty acids in modern diets are thought to contribute to a range of childhood neurodevelopmental disorders including dyslexia, dyspraxia and autism.

In the present study, children between the ages of 5 and 12 with developmental coordination disorder (DCD, also known as dyspraxia) were given capsule supplements containing 80 per cent fish oil and 20 per cent primrose oil (containing omega-6 fatty acids) over a period of three months. A parallel group was given placebos.

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After three months, both groups were assessed and the group which had previously been given placebos was also given the active treatment, while the group on active treatment continued as before. Both groups were assessed again at six months.

After three months, the children who received the active treatment made three times the expected normal gain in reading age and twice the normal gain in spelling age, bringing their average scores towards normative values. After six months, they had continued to make improvements above what would be expected for chronological age.

Children in the placebo group fell even more behind with spelling after three months, although they did show average progress in reading. Once they crossed over from placebo to active treatment, they showed improvements similar to those shown earlier by children receiving active treatment after three months.

No differences between the groups were found in the development of their motor skills, but those receiving the active treatment showed highly significant improvements on teacher ratings of attention, concentration and behaviour compared with those on placebo treatment.

Dr Alex Richardson said: 'Delays in literacy development often increase over time, so early intervention is important. The next step to take within the framework of this research is to find out whether and how far fish oil might help otherwise normal children. We are now hoping to attract the necessary funding to carry out such a study.'