Fish oil could help problem kids

Reporter: Jackie Quist

Natalie Sinn, a researcher from the University of South Australia, conducted a double blind placebo study of 145 children with attention deficit disorder (ADD). She said the parents of the children who took fish oil reported - after 15 weeks – that their concentration had improved, they were calmer, and they could read better. "I did a series of cognitive assessments with them and they also found increases in their attention which weren't seen in the placebo group," Natalie said.

Guy Drummond - director of the Clover Corporation which manufactures omega-3 supplements – said he was convinced ADHD in children was largely caused by the lack of fatty acids in people's diets."There are studies which have been done which show that kids fed omega-3's may have a seven point IQ advantage over kids that have not received sufficient omega-3 fatty acids," Guy claimed.

Trials from the United Kingdom have confirmed Natalie's discoveries that fatty acid supplements can help children with behavioural and learning disorders. Guy said Australians needed 500 mg of omega-3 in their diet. But 50 per cent of the population was getting less than 30 mg. "So there's an enormous dietary deficiency - you need to eat at least two meals of fatty fish per week and 75 per cent of Australians don't even get one meal of fatty fish per week," he said.

Natalie said researchers believed omega-3 fatty acids helped with brain function because they were present in a very concentrated form.

"The signals that are sent through our brain are sent through neural membranes and the fats are very concentrated in those membranes," Natalie said.

Natalie's research had raised the question - how many children could avoid using prescription drugs to treat behavioural disorders like ADD and attention defecit and hyperactivity disorder and whether they even exist? Guy claimed that Ritalin - a drug used to treat attention defecit disorders - had been prescribed too often. "There are certainly a range of things - including dietary intervention with omega 3s - that could significantly benefit those kids," Guy said.