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FSA reviews foods for brain power and behaviour

By Jess Halliday , 13-Jun-2006

The UK's Food Standards Agency is conducting a review of foods and supplements that have been reported to help improve children's performance and behaviour in school. If its findings are positive, it could prove a further boon for cognition category.

The review, which includes essential fatty acids omega-3 and omega-6, is not a full consultation and is unlikely to lead to nationwide policy of the same ilk addition of folic acid to bakery products, which is presently under debate.

"The FSA is undertaking a review to ensure that our advice on food issues continues to be evidence based," said a statement issued by the agency, "but it will be down to DfES [Department for Education and Skills] and others such as the School Foods Trust and SWaNI [Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland] education departments to consider any future implications of the findings in relation to food served in school."

The cognitive functional category is reported by market researchers to be one of the hottest areas of the supplements industry at the moment. Mintel's Global New Products Database lists 14 new product lines in the category introduced in 2000. In 2005 27 new entries were logged.

A spokesperson for the FSA told NutraIngredients.com that although media reports of the review have focused on omega-3 supplementation, evidence on any other food that have come up in the past as potentially beneficial will also be taken into account.

She was not able to give examples of what these other foods are, but they might include wild green oat, which has a long history of use as a concentration enhancer; glucose, linked to better memory; cocoa flavonoids, reported by researchers to increase blood flow to the brains; and choline and other B vitamins.

On omega-3 and oily fish, the agency was cautious about the evidence.

Although some very positive studies in the last few years have reported remarkable improvements in behaviour amongst children given omega-3 supplements - including children with specific behavioural problems - it is not yet seen as an open and closed book.

"Evidence on the benefits of fish consumption is currently limited to cardiovascular diseases," said the FSA. "No clear conclusions can be drawn for other health benefits, including the association of all aspects of diet and performance in children."

The spokesperson said the review is currently underway but in its early stages, and there is not yet any indication of when the findings will be made available.

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