The trial, conducted by researchers from Mae Fah Luang University, Dhurakij Pundit University, Swinburne University, and Maha Chulalongkorn Rajavidyalaya University, studied a commercially available fish oil supplement made by Australia headquartered bioscience firm Max Biocare.
Writing in Foods, the researchers compared the effects of the fish oil product BrightKids versus placebo in 120 healthy kids between six and 12 years old.
The children were randomised to consume either 1) two capsules of Brightkids, 2) one capsule of Brightkids and one capsule of placebo, or 3) two placebo capsules daily for 12 weeks.
Each capsule of Brightkids contains tuna oil, which is equivalent to 260mg of DHA and 60mg of EPA. The product is designed to support brain and eye development and function.
The goal of the trial is to find out the effects of fish oil supplementation on cognitive function processing ability and working memory in kids.
Cognitive function was assessed using a computerised cognitive battery, which measured attention, processing speed, inhibition, and memory at baseline and at the end of the study.
The research was funded by Max BioCare and partially supported by Maha Chulalongkorn Rajavidyalaya University and Mae Fah Luang University.
Findings showed that fish oil supplementation could lead to consistent improvement in attention and cognitive processing ability.
The finding was drawn from the changes in brain activity, as measured by changes in the event-related potentials (ERPs) when the children were taking tests for memory, attention, and inhibition.
Event-related potentials could be defined as very small voltages generated in the brain structures in response to specific events or stimuli.
During all cognitive function tests, the group taking two capsules of the fish oil showed a higher mean ERP amplitude than the group taking only one capsule of fish oil and the group taking only placebo.
“The ERP measurement and analysis of brain activity during the cognitive tests showed an increase in ERP amplitude. For all cognitive tests, there was a dose-response effect of fish oil on ERP amplitudes.
“These findings indicate that fish oil intake leads to a consistent improvement in attention and cognitive processing ability measured by changes in brain activity during working and long-term memory processes.
“ERP changes are commonly associated with brain growth in children and adolescents who are in good health,” the researchers said.
However, no significant difference was observed in the reaction times, accuracy, or error rates between the three groups during the tests.
The researchers believe that they did not see any changes possibly because the tests might not be sensitive enough to pick up changes in performance.
The study was limited in that it did not measure physiological measurements such as serum cortisol or other biochemistry markers to compare the differences between fish oil supplementation and placebo.
“Though an effect was demonstrated, changes in physiological parameters and their correlation with observed effects that may explain mechanisms of action were not investigated in this study.
“As our study has shown heterogeneity in terms of the effect of fish oil on cognitive and brain function, other physiological and biochemical measurements should also be measured in order to elucidate mechanisms of action,” said the researchers.
Effectiveness of Fish Oil-DHA Supplementation for Cognitive Function in Thai Children: A Randomised, Double-Blind, Two-Dose, Placebo-Controlled Clinical Trial
Authors: Sittiprapaporn P, Bumrungpert A, Suyajai P, Stough C.