Better Brain Function Associated with Higher Omega-3 Index in Young Children

OCTOBER 10, 2018
Kristen Coppock, MA, Editor
Whole blood levels of omega-3s are associated with better brain function in children, aged 2 to 6 years, according to a recent study.1-2

Published in the Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry, the study investigated the relationship between whole-blood fatty acids (FA) and executive function in 307 children from Northern Ghana. Dried blood spot samples were collected and analyzed for FA content, and the children performed a battery of cognitive function tests that were age appropriate, including the dimensional change card sort (DCCS).1-2

Researchers examined which higher levels of essential fatty acids (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) were associated with better cognitive performance and found that the average Omega-3 Index (red blood cell EPA + DHA level) in this group was 4.6%, with a range of 2.3% to 11.7%.1-2

Significant differences in mean percentage total whole-blood fatty acids were observed between children who could not follow directions on the DCCS test (50.2% of the sample) and those who could (49.8% of the sample). Positive associations with DCCS performance were observed for DHA (β=0.25, P=.06), total n-3 (β=0.17, P=.06) and dihomo-gamma-linolenic acid (DGLA; β=0.60, P=.06).1 

Children with the highest levels of total omega-3s and DHA were 3 and 4 times, respectively, more likely to pass at least 1 condition of the DCCS test of executive function than those with the lowest levels.1-2

Bill Harris, a study author, co-inventor of the Omega-3 index test, and founder of the OmegaQuant independent lab, said the results are encouraging for children.2

“We were happy to see the positive correlation between omega-3 levels and better brain function, especially since an omega-3 deficiency is so easy to correct,” said Harris, in a prepared statement.2 “All it requires is consuming more of the right omega-3s, especially DHA which in this case was the standout fatty acid here."

Researchers concluded that the study findings also provided an "impetus for further studies into possible interventions to improve essential fatty acid status of children in developing countries."2

"Children in developing countries like Ghana do not have the access to omega-3-rich sources that children from other parts of the world do. This has several ramifications, particularly in the area of brain development and cognitive function,” said Harris, in a prepared statement.2


References
  1. Adjepong M, Yakah W, Harris WS, Annan RA, Pontifex MB, Fenton JI. Whole blood n-3 fatty acids are associated with executive function in 2-6-year-old northern ghanaian children. The Journal of nutritional biochemistry. 2018;57:287-293
  2. Higher omega-3 index associated with better brain function in children [news release]. August 13, 2018. OmegaQuant. https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2018-08/wom-hoi081318.php. Accessed October 10, 2018.

 

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