Children with symptoms of dyslexia and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) may behave better and find it easier to think when their diets are supplemented with fatty acid, according to new research from the UK.
Writing in the February issue of the journal Progress in Neuro-Psychopharmacology & Biological Psychiatry, Alexandra Richardson and Basant Puri, research faculty members at Oxford University and Imperial College School of Medicine in London, said they had carried out a three-month pilot study on 41 boys and girls aged 8-12.
The supplement used in the trial was made up of fatty acids from different natural sources -EPA and DHA derived from fish oil, and GLA and linoleic acid, derived from evening primrose oil.
Richardson said: "Abundant evidence points to the importance of specific fatty acids in brain development and function. These fatty acids are often under-consumed or under-produced in children with behavioural and learning challenges.
She continued: "Although our study did not employ the typical diagnostic measures for ADHD, all of the children experienced some difficulties of this kind in addition to their ready and writing difficulties, and were enrolled at a special learning school.
"Our study reinforces the assertion that in some children, learning difficulties and ADHD-related symptoms are responsive to dietary supplements providing the appropriate fatty acids. A variety of symptoms characteristic of ADHD improved in the children receiving the fatty acid mixture compared to an olive oil placebo, without any apparent side effects."
The researchers also used a questionnaire given to the parents of each of the children involved in the study to assess changes in behaviour and mental performance. This included measures of inattention, restlessness-impulsiveness, anxiousness-shyness, and cognitive problems. After three months of daily use, notable improvements were observed in most of the scores among the children receiving the special fatty acid mixture.