Brain development is particularly important during the formative period in utero and during the first year of life. During this time, the beneficial omega-3 fat DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) is transferred from mother to infant, and is essential to healthy brain, cognitive, and retinal development. If the mother does not have sufficient omega-3 levels, baby will not get enough of this vital nutrient.

In a new study published in the Public Library of Sciences ONE (PLoS ONE) journal, researchers analyzed data from 493 seven to nine year old British schoolchildren with below average reading performance. They found that total EPA + DHA accounted for only 2.45 percent total blood fatty acids. “Concentrations below 4 percent EPA + DHA in red cell membranes [also called the Omega-3 Index] are considered to signify high cardiovascular risk, and 8 to 12 percent the optimal range,” they noted. “The longer term implications of the very low values found in these UK schoolchildren obviously cannot be known, but give cause for concern.”

While the study did not compare omega-3 levels of these children to children who performed at excelled levels, certainly it provides a possible explanation for the poor performance. “The finding that low omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids, and DHA in particular, predict behavior and learning problems in this large sample of healthy, but underperforming children attending mainstream schools suggest that the benefits from dietary supplementation found in ADHD and related conditions may extend to a wider population,” stated the article.

Omega-3 DHA supplementation during pregnancy and childhood is one of the best ways to optimize health during childhood. It’s a topic I write about often because it’s so important. If your children don’t like to eat sardines or wild salmon at least twice weekly, a DHA supplement is your best bet.