Omega acids can boost children’s reading skills

September 20, 2016 Providence Health Team

If you want your child to be a better reader, read on.

A new study of mainstream children in Sweden found their ability to read improved after they received omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acid supplements for six months.

Researchers at the University of Gothenburg studied the effects of the fatty acid supplements on the reading abilities of 154 third-graders ages 9 and 10. They gave some of the students placebos and some fatty acid capsules for three months, then all of them supplements for three more months.

“Even after three months, we could see that the children's reading skills improved with the addition of fatty acids, compared with those who received the placebo,” said Mats Johnson, the lead author and a physician and researcher at the University of Gothenburg.

“This was particularly evident in the ability to read a nonsense word aloud and pronounce it correctly (phonologic decoding), and the ability to read a series of letters quickly (visual analysis time),” Johnson said.

Johnson, who said the study was the first double-blind, placebo-controlled study that shows these fatty acids improve reading among mainstream schoolchildren, called for further research on the subject.

What are omega-3 and omega-6 acids?

Your body doesn’t produce omega-3 and omega-6 acids, but they are essential for your health. You consume them in foods or supplements.

Foods rich in omega-3 include:

  • Fish
  • Vegetable oils
  • Nuts, especially walnuts
  • Flax seeds
  • Flaxseed oil
  • Leafy vegetables

Foods rich in omega-6 include vegetable oils with linoleic acid. A product of such oil, gamma-linolenic acid, is found in plant-based oils including black currant seed oil and primrose oil.

To read more

The study, “Omega 3/6 fatty acids for reading in children: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial in 9-year-old mainstream schoolchildren in Sweden,” was published in the Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry.

The University of Gothenburg published a story, “Omega-3 and Omega-6 Supplement Improves Reading for Children,” about the research.

Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health published “Omega-3 Fatty Acids: An Essential Contribution,” to describe what makes omega-3 important.

You can read about omega-6 fatty acids at the website for the University of Maryland Medical Center.

Earlier, we published “Finding the omega-3/omega-6 balance” to help you follow a diet with the appropriate mix of foods rich in omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. These acids have benefits that go far beyond their effects on reading ability: They also help the body manage inflammation and promote heart health.

Talk with your health care provider about making sure you get enough of these essential fatty acids. If you don’t have a provider, you can find one in our directory.

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