Omega-3 supplementation greatly improves brain function in malnourished children ages 8 to 12, according to a recent study published in the journal Research in Developmental Disabilities. Many studies have been done on the brain health effects of omega-3 fats in infants, toddlers, adults, and the elderly, but the effects of these fats on malnourished children in this age range was previously unknown.

According to a 2013 US Department of Agriculture report, “Children were food insecure at times during the year in 10 percent of households with children [in the United States]. These 3.9 million households were unable at times during the year to provide adequate, nutritious food for their children.” The researchers of the omega-3 study stressed the consequences of malnutrition during childhood: “At long term, malnutrition can result in damage of cognitive functions and academic performance.”

In the study, 50 malnourished children took either an omega-3 supplement containing 180 mg DHA and 270 mg EPA or a placebo daily for three months. After that short time period, over seventy percent of the children taking the omega-3 supplement improved in coordination, processing speed, attention, perceptual integration, and executive function when compared to those children taking placebo. These results are very encouraging, and only support the need for more widespread supplementation with these essential fats.

More studies will be done to confirm these results and build upon the research. I would love to see these children take omega-3 supplements for longer than three months, which would likely yield even better results. I’ll keep you posted as more studies are done.