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Increased intakes of an omega-3 fatty acid may reduce aggressive behavior

May 17, 2013

A regular supplementation with docosahexaenoic acid or a multivitamin/mineral/trace element combination may reduce the incidence of aggressive behavior, impulsivity and/or perceived stress, says a new study from UK.

This randomized controlled trial examined laboratory-based measures of aggression, impulsivity, and stress in 173 young adult men without a history of aggressive or impulsive behavior. They received either a supple-ment with vitamins (A, C, D, E, K and the B vitamins), minerals and trace elements, a supplement with doco-sahexaenoic acid (672 mg of DHA/day), a combination of both supplements, or a placebo for three months (1). The study results showed that participants who took DHA had a decrease in aggressive behavior and a decrease in impulsivity (the ability to inhibit already initiated behavior). The multivitamin, mineral and trace element supplement did decrease perceived stress but not the other parameters. No synergistic effects were observed in the group receiving vitamins/minerals plus DHA.

The researchers commented that previous studies may have shown positive findings with vitamin/minerals supplementation because they used participants who were deficient in micronutrients at the beginning of the study. Clearly, future studies would benefit from measuring the participants’ micronutrient status.

A series of randomized, placebo-controlled double-blind studies have reported that supplementation with vitamins/minerals, omega-3 fatty acids or both reduce the incidence of aggressive behavior in participants with a history of antisocial behavior. One study found that the disciplinary record of young male offenders improved by 26% following 13 vitamins plus 12 minerals and omega-3 fatty acid supplementation (80 mg/ day of eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and 44 mg/day of DHA) (2). A replication of this study used higher doses of fatty acids (400 mg of DHA and 400 mg of EPA per day), and found that aggression and rulebreaking decreased by 34% (3).

References

  1. Long S.-J. and Benton D. A double-blind trial of the effect of docosahexaenoic acid and vitamin and mineral supplementation on aggression, impulsivity, and stress. Hum. Psychopharmacol Clin Exp. Published online May 2013.
  2. Gesch C. B. et al. Influence of supplementary vitamins, minerals and essential fatty acids on the antisocial behaviour of young adult prisoners. Randomised, placebo- controlled trial. Br J Psychiatry. 2002; 181:22–28.
  3. Zaalberg A. et al. Effects of nutritional supplements on aggression, rule-breaking, and psychopathology among young adult prisoners. Aggress Behav. 2010; 36:117–126.