New study investigates fatty acids and severe behavioral disorders

By Jess Halliday

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Fatty acids Nutrition Linoleic acid

A new pilot study gets underway today to assess the effect of fish
oil supplements in children at a residential school who have
experienced severe emotional, behavioural and social difficulties.

The study is being conducted by supplement-maker Efamol with the cooperation of children's charity NCH, which runs The Cotswold Community School in Swindon, UK.

Peter Clough, research director at Efamol, told that the new study is significant because it is the first time fatty acids have been trialed in a residential community of this kind.

Although it is a pilot study, he is positive that it will yield significant results that may merit publication in a peer-reviewed journal.

"Several previous studies have shown that omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids can help relieve some of the symptoms of learning and behavioural disorders in children and adults. We anticipate some interesting results and it may provide us with the means to help other children in the future,"​ he said.

The 25 boys at the school are to receive the normal recommended daily dose of Efamol's Efalex over a four-week period - that is, 480mg of DHA (docosahexaenioc acid), 100mg of EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid), 100mg of GLA (gamma-linolenic acid) and 36mg of ALA (alpha-linolenic acid).

This dose is recommended by the company for an initial period, followed by continuing use at a lower level. This is because the human body builds up stores of fatty acids.

Staff at the school will also take the supplements as encouragement, although their results will not be analysed.

Principal Andrew Thomas said that the school has been actively promoting a healthy diet due to the mounting evidence that good nutrition can play a role in improving mental well-being. It has received an award from Swindon's local authority in recognition of its work in improving the diet and lifestyle of pupils.

Clough explained that behavioural problems like ADHD tend to be more frequent in boys than in girls, and boys appear to respond better to intervention with fatty acids, as they seem to have more efficient enzyme metabolism.

Although the theory has not been investigated, one reason for this could be due to the important role that fatty acids play in the development of babies, leading to female evolution that ensures their offspring receive higher amounts.

The effects of the intervention will be assessed through questionnaires completed by each of the children, their teachers and their carers, at the start and the end of the four-week period.

The results will be analysed by independent nutrition consultant Dr Jacqueline Stordy.

The study is funded by Efamol. Clough said that the company established the fatty acids supplement category for children and its supplements have been used in more trials to date than any other. First introduced in 1997, they are now sold in 26 countries around the world.

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