Omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids improved reading, spelling and behavior in school children with under-developed physical control (motor skills). Children with the condition known as developmental coordination disorder (DCD) usually are of average or above-average intelligence but have clumsy or awkward movements. A child typically learns motor skills in early childhood starting with “gross” movements, such as controlling the head and keeping balance, and progressing to “fine” movements, such as moving objects from hand to hand and grasping objects between thumb and finger, as in writing. In DCD, children do not fully control gross or fine movements and have difficulty learning and adjusting psychologically and socially.
The study authors point out that low levels of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids may hinder nerve development—as in dyslexia—and may contribute to psychiatric disorders such as attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Because there are no known treatments for DCD, the scientists decided to examine the effects of the omega fatty acids.
The researchers gave 117 children with DCD, aged 5 to 12, an omega-3 and omega-6 supplement containing 80% fish oil (558 mg eicosapentaenoic acid and 174 mg docosahexaenoic acid) and 20% evening primrose oil per day or a placebo. After three months, the children in the placebo group switched over to the omega-3 and omega-6 treatment, and all children continued for another three months.
Researchers found that motor skills did not improve, but the omega-3/omega-6 group had significant improvements in reading, spelling and behavior over three months compared to placebo. The children in the placebo group had similar improvements after switching to the omega treatment, while the original omega group maintained or increased improvements. The scientists suggest further studies to measure motor skills more effectively and to confirm the positive findings on behavior and academic progress.