Journal of Nutrition & Food Sciences

Journal of Nutrition & Food Sciences
Open Access

ISSN: 2155-9600


Omega-3/6 Fatty Acids and Learning in Children and Young People: A Review of Randomised Controlled Trials Published in the Last 5 Years

Kirby A and Derbyshire E

Helping children to learn and focus is a central part of educational pedagogy. Given that the human brain is around 60 per cent fat the present review sets out to evaluate the role of omega-3/6 fatty acids in relation to aspects of classroom learning. This is particularly relevant in modern day given that there has been a shift in children’s fatty acids profiles, with movement towards an increased ratio of omega-6 to 3. Using the National Centre for Biotechnology Information PubMed database, a search was made for all studies published between 2012 and 2017 that met defined inclusion criteria. A total of 29 Randomised Controlled Trials (RCT) were identified which used Omega 3/6 fatty acids as interventions. Twenty-two studies (n=3,336) showed overall benefits, ranging from improvements in blood fatty acid levels to improved sleep. Eight trials (n=768) recruiting children and young people with ADHD at baseline reported specific improvements in ADHD symptoms. Six studies (n=1092) showed that omega 3/6 fatty acids can support learning (improved reading ability, spelling, behaviour, attention and reduced hyperactivity and aggression). Strongest benefits are seen amongst those with: 1) ADHD or comorbid learning conditions, 2) suboptimal omega-3 status or 3) who underperform at baseline. RCTs focusing on vulnerable groups such as Looked After Children (LAC) and those with specific learning difficulties such as dyslexia and dyscalculia who could also potentially benefit from omega-3/6 fatty acids warrant further investigation.