A child holding up an omega-3 supplement.

Swansea University researchers are exploring the influence that omega-3 supplements can have on children’s behaviour, mood, and mental wellbeing, as part of a pioneering study with implications for health and education.

Omega-3 fatty acids found in fish and seafood are essential for proper brain function and development in children. As the body can’t reliably make these, they must be supplied through diet.

With most children in the UK consuming less than half the recommended intake of omega-3 fats, a team led by the University’s School of Psychology has received an £81,000 grant to investigate whether Omega-3 supplements can help.

The study is being independently funded by The Waterloo Foundation and is a collaboration with Food and Behaviour (FAB) Research, a UK-based charity dedicated to advancing scientific research into the links between nutrition and human behaviour.

The team is looking for children aged 6-12 from the mainland of the United Kingdom to take part in the study, which can be completed entirely online, with participants given a three-month supply of easy-to-swallow supplements in the post.

Parents and guardians will also be asked to complete questionnaires on their children’s behaviour before and after taking the supplements, noting any changes in behaviour, including mood and sleep.

Dr Hayley Young, Principal Investigator of the project, said: “Dietary omega-3 deficiencies have become the norm in UK children, despite the critical importance of these nutrients for mental as well as physical health and wellbeing. And we already know that a lack of sufficient omega-3 predicts the behaviour, mood and learning difficulties of many different children.

“Previous trials have shown that increasing omega-3 intakes can benefit at least some children, whether or not their difficulties meet full criteria for conditions like ADHD or autism. This new trial will help us find out which children may actually benefit most and how they might best be identified.”

Dr Alex Richardson, FAB Partner and Co-Investigator, added: “FAB Research has a long track record of research in this area – as does Swansea University’s School of Psychology – so we’re delighted to be collaborating on this important new study.

“We know many parents, teachers and health professionals are struggling to provide the help and support so many children need.  We’d love them to get in touch, as we can then give them more information that might be useful to them.”              

Find out more about the study.

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