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Omega-3 fatty acids may improve cognitive performance in malnourished children

Published on

19 March 2014

According to a new study increased intakes of omega-3 fatty acids may improve attention, processing speed, executive function and hand-to-eye coordination in malnourished children.

The randomized controlled trial measured neuropsychological parameters of 50 malnourished children bet- ween the age of 8 and 12 who received a daily omega-3 supplement (180 mg docosahexaenoic acid and
270 mg eicosapentaenoic acid) or placebo for 3 months (1). The study results showed that over 50% of the children in the supplement group showed greater improvement in 11 of the 18 neuropsychological variables than the participants in the placebo group. Coordination, processing speed, attention, perceptual integration and executive function were improved in over 70% of the children who received omega-3 fatty acids. No benefits were observed for memory.

The researchers commented that these results do not support their initial hypothesis that expected an impro- vement in memory due to previous findings on the role of omega-3 fatty acids in the number of neurons in the hippocampus. Although this improvement occurred in the intervention group, it was also evident in the placebo group, indicating that memory may be more sensitive to external stimulation to the effect of ome- ga-3 fatty acids. Experts noted that the recommended time between memory testing of children is one year, not three months as in the new study. Thus, the investigation of effects of omega-3 fatty acids on memory warrants repeating with a modified experimental design.


  1. Portillo-Reyes V. et al. Clinical significance of neuropsychological improvement after supplementation with omega-3 in 8–12 years old malnourished Mexican children: A randomized, double-blind, placebo and treat- ment clinical trial. Research in Developmental Disabilities. 2014; 35(4):861–870.

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