Forwarded by Kathy Burns, MA

Children's diet link to disorders: Study shows dramatic effect of fish oil
supplement.  Felicity Lawrence Monday May 2, 2005

British children are suffering behavioral and learning disorders because
their diets are deficient in vital nutrients needed for their brains to
function normally, a study reveals today. Rigorous scientific research shows
that the performance of underachieving children, some of whom were also
disruptive, improved dramatically when their diets were supplemented with
fish oils. The fish oils contain omega-3 fatty acids that are essential for
brain development and function but are largely missing from modern processed
diets.  The study, published in this month's issue of the American journal
Pediatrics and conducted by researchers from Oxford University's department
of physiology, found that some 40% of the children made dramatic
improvements in reading and spelling when given supplements high in omega-3
essential fats.

The data also shows a significant improvement in concentration and behavior.
Symptoms of the sort associated with attention deficit and hyperactivity
disorder (ADHD) were reduced by an order of magnitude usually achieved with
stimulants such as Ritalin. Parents reported that other health problems,
such as eczema and asthma, also improved, although no specific data on these
other conditions has been published in the study.  The research looked at
117 children aged five to 12 in 12 schools in Co Durham who were of normal
ability but were underachieving and were suspected of having problems with
coordination or motor skills, a condition known as dyspraxia. Dyspraxia is
thought to affect at least 5% of British children to varying degrees - they
may struggle to tie shoelaces or balance, for example. The disorder
frequently overlaps with dyslexia and ADHD, and is part of a range of condi
tions that include autistic spectrum disorders. Researchers have been trying
to establish why there has been a fourfold rise in these types of disorders
in the past 15 to 20 years.

The Durham study followed a rigorous scientific method called a randomized
double blind placebo-controlled trial. Children were assessed for their
motor skills, IQ, reading, spelling and behavior. Testing confirmed they had
dyspraxia. Half were given supplements of essential fats, over three months,
and half were given placebos of olive oil. Neither the children nor the
assessors knew which was receiving which. After three months, the placebo
group were also given the supplements. Children on the supple ments of
omega-3 fatty acids made nine to 10 months' progress in their reading in
three months, compared with the control group, who made the normal progress
of three months. When the group on placebos was switched to active
supplements, it too made similar leaps in progress. None of the children had
been diagnosed as suffering from ADHD, although a third were found to have
sufficient problems to put them in this category. After three months of fish
oils, half of them showed so much improvement that they no longer fell into
this category.

The early results of the research, which began in 2002, were so dramatic
that they attracted considerable publicity before the codes to establish
which group had been on the fish oils and which had been on placebos had
been broken. Now that the full data is available it proves what has been
increasingly feared by parents and teachers - that children's diets today
are inadequate for their basic needs.  Dr Alexandra Richardson, who led the
research, said: "Food affects behavior. If you paid attention to diet, you
could really make a difference."

Guardian Unlimited Guardian Newspapers Limited 2005

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