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Young Readers May Benefit from Omega-3 and -6 Fatty Acids

Your budding bookworm could boost their reading skills with a specially formulated omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acid supplement (Omega 3/6), according to a study published in the Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry. The randomized, double-blind study assigned 154 nine- and ten-year-olds, without diagnosed ADHD, to receive either three Omega 3/6 capsules or three placebo capsules twice daily for three months. The Omega 3/6 supplement provided three polyunsaturated fatty acids: eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA, 558 mg per day), docosahexaenoic acid (DHA, 174 mg per day), and gamma-linolenic acid (GLA, 60 mg per day); the placebo contained palm oil, which is primarily composed of saturated fatty acids. After the three months, all the children received the same Omega 3/6 treatment for another three months. Researchers assessed the children's reading abilities at the beginning of the study, at three months, and at six months via the Logos test, which measures reading speed, ability to read nonsense words, and vocabulary. With the help of the children's parents, researchers also identified any children with mild attention difficulties. After three months, researchers found that:

  • Children taking the Omega 3/6 supplement had improvements in their ability to read a nonsense word aloud and pronounce it correctly (phonologic decoding), and in their ability to read a series of letters quickly (visual analysis time), compared with children taking the placebo.
  • Children taking the Omega 3/6 supplement with mild attention difficulties had even greater improvements in their phonologic decoding, reading speed per word, and visual analysis time.

While previous research has found that omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acid supplements were helpful in children with attention and reading difficulties, this is the first study of its kind to find that these benefits may extend to those without these difficulties. To boost your young reader’s intake of these nutrients, sprinkle hemp hearts (which contain the omega-6 fatty acid GLA) on their breakfast cereal, and serve up salmon or tuna (which contain the omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA) for dinner. If you’d like to add an omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acid supplement to your child’s health regimen, be sure to talk with their pediatrician first.

Source: Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry

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