Robert Clack School Study: Improving behaviour among school children through nutrition



Publication date

28 January 2016

Authors

Professor John Stein (Principal Investigator)

Dr Jonathan Tammam (Co-ordinator)

Contributors

This study was funded by a grant from the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation and carried out by the Department of Physiology, Anatomy and Genetics (DPAG) at the University of Oxford.


Overview

  • The study investigated the effects of supplements on school performance and behaviour

  • Supplements contained vitamins, minerals and omega-3 fatty acids

  • Results showed supplementation improved behaviour in children

  • The way in which supplements are given may need to be improved to increase uptake in teenagers

The study

The Robert Clack School serves a community that has had difficulty accessing the right nutrition in Dagenham, East London. With the enthusiastic support of the school we recruited 200 volunteers from years 9 and 10 (14 - 15 year olds) to join a study of the effect of nutritional supplements (as an alternative for significantly improved diet) on cognitive and school performance as well as behaviour.

What we did

We measured cognitive and academic performance, reviewed records of disciplinary incidents, and assessed nutrient status from pin-prick blood samples. 

Participants were randomly assigned to take daily capsules containing vitamins, minerals and omega-3 fatty acids (Wellteen, Vitabiotics Ltd) or a placebo, with none of the researchers or teachers knowing who was in which group. 

After three months, we took blood samples again, retested the participants and collated cognitive, academic and behavioural scores from the intervention period, analysis of which began late 2011.

Key findings

Results showed that the behaviour in the students receiving the supplements improved, while the behaviour of the pupils receiving the placebo worsened. When comparing the well behaved and badly behaved students, the poorly behaved students’ behaviour improved while they were taking the nutrient supplements. Results suggest that nutritional supplementation improves behaviour in school aged children.

We also became aware during the course of this study that the way the vitamin, mineral and essential fatty acid supplements were given to participants (one large tablet and two capsules each day) affected the participation rates. In light of this we are looking at alternative, more palatable ways of delivering supplements for the future.