Kids love burgers. It might help if it's a fish burger. If you don't eat enough fish, two experts argue that fish oil supplementation is the way to go, especially for children with attention deficit hyperactive disorder-related symptoms or learning difficulties.
Alex Richardson, research fellow at the Centre for Evidence-Based Intervention at Oxford University, and Peter Clough, technical director for British supplements firm Efamol, were in Hong Kong recently.
Richardson has conducted research on how Omega-3 fatty acids affect dyslexic children with ADHD-related symptoms and underachieving mainstream students. Clough coordinates clinical trials on the effects of Efamol's Omega-3 supplements with universities and government bodies.
Eicosapentaenoic acid, or EPA, and docosahexaenoic acid, or DHA, are the two Omega-3 fatty acids that cannot be produced by the body and need to be provided through diet. Fish and seafood are major sources and, as a last resort, so are supplements.
Richardson says that children with ADHD-related symptoms, such as being impulsive and having difficulty concentrating, tend to have a higher Omega-3 fatty acid deficiency than those children without the symptoms.
Giving children EPA and DHA supplements may help mitigate ADHD- related symptoms such as anxiety. "The ADHD traits that are linked to anxiety and difficulties with emotional self- regulation, those show up time and time again in our ADHD scale as ones which improve following Omega-3 supplementation," Richardson says.
The supplements may also help underperforming mainstream children by increasing their clarity of thought, improving their working memory and vision.
She adds that these benefits can help children read and learn better provided they get the correct dosage, which varies from individual to individual. "There's no cut-and-dry, definitive one- size-fits-all."
For children, Clough recommends starting them with a combined daily dose of 600 milligrams of EPA and DHA, and doubling it to 1,200mg if the child does not show significant improvement, after, say, a period of three months.
Richardson adds that increasing the dose is safe because the supplements produce no adverse side effects as long as the individual does not exceed the maximum daily intake level of three grams per day, as recommended by the US Food and Drug Administration. Out of the maximum, less than two grams should come from supplements. But both experts recommend consulting a doctor if the child is already on medication.
Given the right dosage, results for children with ADHD-related symptoms can be dramatic. "A parent might say to us: 'It's changed our lives. Before he was unbearable, his behavior was completely erratic, unpredictable and impulsive, and now he's calm, sits down and does his homework,"' Clough says.