“Omega-3s are precious nutrients that have never reached such historically low levels in our diets. We cannot ignore the physical health risks to children from a poor nutritional diet as they are all too visible. What’s less visible is the damage to their brains,” said Dr Alex Richardson, a research scientist at the University of Oxford and founder and director of FAB.
Dr Richardson and other speakers highlighted the studies that have so far indicated the crucial role of omega-3 in improving behaviour, learning and mood disorders.
Potential benefits of the fatty acids include a reduction in violent or impulsive behaviour, improvements in neurodevelopmental disorders in children (such as ADHD, dyslexia, dyspraxia and autism), as well as improvements or even prevention of adult psychiatric disorders (such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, anxiety disorders and depression).
A number of randomized controlled trials – the gold standard in the scientific world – have demonstrated some of these benefits, explained the speakers. However, the results cannot be compared and confirmed through systematic reviews or meta-analyses because the studies are too differing – conducted in different populations and using different measures.
Ultimately, this means that regulatory authorities require more studies before the benefits can be recognised, but funds for these remain limited.
“Omega-3s do not work in the same way for everyone – we all agree that we need more studies. The department of education wants to see the results, but they don’t want to contribute anything,” said Dr Richardson.