During five months, 65 children with behavioural problems were given a daily supplement of omega-3 fish oil in combination with evening primrose oil (omega-6). The children had a seven month delay in language skilldevelopment.
"Children taking the supplement made an average seven month improvement in receptive language ability, and a nearly nine month improvement in expressive language ability. The matched control group made an expected gain of five months," said Dr Madeleine Portwood, lead researcher and senior educational psychologist for Durham Council.
The progress in behaviour due to the supplement also appeared to have a positive effect on the parent-child relationship.
"What was most surprising was the increased engagement with the parents.At the start of the study 47 per cent of the parents rated their child'sbehaviour as poor or very poor. At the end of the study the figure was fourper cent," Dr Portwood told NutraIngredients.com.
"It appeared that the improvement in the child-parent bond in these crucial early years, played the most fundamental role in facilitating the remarkable changes we have seen in the development of the children's language skills," she concluded.
The supplement, provided by Equazen Nutraceuticals, was derived fromhigh-EPA marine fish oil and virgin evening primrose oil (GLA). The eyeq smooth formulation contained 475 mg EPA, 151 mg DHA, 54mg GLA, and3.2 mg vitamin E, delivered in a tropical fruit-flavoured emulsion.
The mechanism behind the supplement's effect seems to be specific tothe type of omega oil. Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) is proposed to functionby increasing blood flow in the body. It is also suggested to affecthormones and the immune system, both of which have a direct effect on brainfunction. Docosahexaenioc acid (DHA), on the other hand, is involved in themembrane of ion channels in the brain, making it easier for them to changeshape and transit electrical signals.
The new research adds to the growing mass of data for the beneficial effects of omega-3 oils, which has led to huge growth in omega-3 products in the marketplace. Mintel's Global New Products Database (GNPD) showed 208omega-3-containing product launches across Europe this year, an increase of36 per cent from 2004.
The research results were published as a Sure Start Peterlee Report (after five months of research) and will also be published in the book series Nutrition and Health.