DHA Supplementation Improves Reading in Under-Performing Children [ISSFAL 2012]

May 31, 2012


The DHA Oxford Learning and Behaviour (DOLAB) Study: A Randomized Controlled Trial of DHA Supplementation in Health Children
Richardson, A. and Montgomery, P., Centre for Evidence-based Intervention, University of Oxford, UK
(The present report is filed on-site by the DHA/EPA Omega-3 Institute from the 10th Congress of the International Society for the Study of Fatty Acids and Lipids held in Vancouver, BC)


This research group from the University of Oxford reported that 6-10 year old children with the lowest blood levels of DHA omega-3 (reflective of lower dietary intakes) exhibited a lower working memory and a poorer reading ability as compared to children with much higher levels. Thus, they conducted a clinical research trial on 362 children from UK schools (ages 7-9 years) who exhibited the bottom third with respect to reading ability (“poor readers”).

This DOLAB Study randomized 182 children to receive daily supplementation with a placebo (control group) while the others (180 children) received 600 mg DHA/day for a period of 16 weeks. Reading performances (at day 0 and 16 weeks) were measured by the British Ability Scales – Single Word Reading. For those children whose initial reading performance was at or below the 20 percentile (bottom fifth) of the group, a significant benefit of DHA supplementation was found. This benefit of DHA was even more pronounced for those in the bottom 10 %. For children in the bottom 20 % , an additional 0.8 months of reading age ability was gained with DHA relative to the controls (not receiving DHA supplement). For children in the bottom 10 % , the additional reading age gain with DHA was estimated at 1.9 months. The researchers concluded that DHA supplementation appears to be a safe and effective way to improve reading and behaviour in healthy but under-performing children from mainstream schools.

Dr. Holub's Comments:

When interviewed directly by Dr. Holub (University of Guelph and the DHA/EPA Omega-3 Institute) on site, Dr. Paul Richardson provided the following quote: “ I have no doubt that the vast majority of children in the United Kingdom and in North America are under-consuming the long-chain omega-3 fatty acids needed for optimal reading ability and behaviour”. Dr. Holub notes that intakes of 600 mg DHA/day are approximately 10 times greater than average daily intakes in North America today but similar to that of many children in Japan.

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