Improving behaviour with omega-3: A clinical trial

Publication date

22 August 2014


Adrian Raine
Jill Portnoy
Jianghong Liu
Tashneem Mahoomed
Joseph R. Hibbeln

The Publication

An article in the Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry showed that supplementation with omega-3 can bring about positive behavioural changes in school children and their caregivers.

In this study, schoolchildren were given fruit drinks that were supplemented with long chain omega-3 fatty acids. Half the children were given the supplement containing the omega-3s, and  the other half were given a placebo. Behavioural changes were measured, both in the children and also in their caregivers, at the start of the trial, after the supplementation period (6 months) and 12 months after the treatment period.

Results showed significant long term improvements in the behaviour of children in the group which had received supplements. The findings also showed that parents whose children were supplemented with omega-3s had significant reductions in their own aggressive and anti-social behaviour after the treatment period.

Professor Adrian Raine, lead author from the Richard Perry University Departments of Criminology and Psychiatry at the University of Pennsylvania, said:

"Although our research was focused on reducing anti-social and aggressive behaviour, we also found long-term effects in reducing other problems including anxiety and depression in the children. What surprised but interested us is that the parents of the children also showed long-term behavioural improvements if their children were given omega-3."

Our Response

The findings of this research reaffirm that nutrition has a direct impact on how the brain functions, and. providing people with adequate micro-nutrition can bring about measurable changes in behaviour.

Supplementation with omega-3 has been shown in many previous studies to have a positive impact on behaviour in school-aged children; this study confirms these results and shows that it can also favourably impact on caregivers too. John Stein, Professor of Neurophysiology at Oxford University and Chair of our Science Advisory Council, said:

"Adequate nutrition is key to enabling the brain to function properly; supplementing the diet with these essential fatty acids could have a major impact on behavioural outcomes in children."