Parents to test behaviour effects of Omega-3

By Stephen Daniells

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Fatty acids Omega-3 fatty acid Eicosapentaenoic acid

Children may soon benefit from less moody parents if a newly
launched trial with omega-3 fatty acids is successful, adding to
the list of studies linking fish oils to behaviour and cognitive

Studies reporting positive effects of omega-3 fatty acid supplementation have been increasing with benefits shown for children with learning difficulties, behavioural problems or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). The studies have mostly focused on young children and teens, but now researchers from essential fatty acids company, Efamol, will study the effects on parents.

"This is the first study of its kind to look at the effects of omega-3 on parents,"​ said study advisor, Dr Alexandra Richardson, from the Department of Physiology, Anatomy and Genetics at Oxford University.

"Previous studies involving children have shown that omega-3 fatty acids can have a beneficial effect on conditions such as ADHD and dyslexia. We now know that these conditions can run in families so it's likely that many parents are suffering too,"​ explained Richardson.

Yorkshire-based company Efamol is coordinating the study, and parents will receive daily supplements of their Efalex fatty acid supplement, a blend of extracted tuna fish oil and Evening Primrose Oil. Parents have the choice of either capsules or liquid products, and Efamol's research director Peter Clough told that the active dose of these supplements would be about 600 mg of DHA, 134 mg of EPA, and 120 mg of GLA per day.

The study will be performed with 20 parents of children from Ashbrow Children's Centre in Huddersfield and will last for four months. Dr. Clough said that no interim analysis will take place, but parents will be assessed at the end of the supplementation period using two internationally accepted questionnaires - the Profile of Mood State (PODS) and the Connors Adult ADHD Rating Scale (CAARS).

Evidence of the public awareness of recent positive results on cognitive function can be found with Ashbrow's headteacher, Dora Plant, who said that professionals at the school were becoming more aware and knowledgeable about the reported benefits of omega-3 fatty acids.

"I have read that depletion of essential fatty acids takes place during pregnancy and as a result of each subsequent birth. To counteract this reduction, a very good diet is important. This is not an easy option for busy parents but without it, parents may experience mood swings and/or depression, which can have an adverse effect on family life. It therefore seemed logical to focus on parents in an attempt to break the cycle,"​ said Plant.

Clough said that Efamol was also in the process of conducting nine other trials in hospitals and universities for a range of conditions including inflammation, skin, and other cognitive function.

The mechanism behind the supplement's effect on cognitive function seems to be specific to the type of omega oil. Docosahexaenioc acid (DHA) is said to be involved in the membrane of ion channels in the brain, making it easier for them to change shape and transit electrical signals.

Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) is proposed to function by increasing blood flow in the body. It is also suggested to affect hormones and the immune system, both of which have a direct effect on brain function.

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