Date Published: 16 September 2005

Fish oils shown to be beneficial to dyspraxic children

Health News from Oxford, England (UK).
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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 Durham.

Fish oils, or omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, are essential for normal brain development and function and should therefore be included in the diet. Low levels of fish oils in modern diets have been shown to contribute to a range of childhood neurodevelopmental disorders, including dyslexia, dyspraxia and autism (see also autism news).

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

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 further 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.

Neither group showed any difference in the development of their motor skills but both groups improved behaviour after three months of receiving the active 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 would be to figure 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."

The Oxford-Durham study is available on the Pediatrics website,

Source(s): Oxford University, England (UK)

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