Help your kids ace their tests with a salmon dinner
(AFP) Want to help your kids improve their performance at school? Serve them a dinner of grilled tuna or salmon teriyaki, suggests a new study out of Oxford University.
After taking blood samples from nearly 500 children between the ages of seven and nine, scientists found that levels of omega-3 fatty acids “significantly predicted” their ability to concentrate, and learn.
Published in the journal PLOS Oneand presented at a conference in London last week, the study found that higher levels of omega-3, particularly the long-chain form of Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), were associated with better reading and memory and fewer behavioural problems among the children examined.
Omega-3 fatty acids have been shown to play an important role in the brain’s structure and cognitive function, in addition to heart health and the immune system. Dietary sources of omega-3 include fatty fish such as sardines, mackerel, salmon and tuna as well as flaxseed oil and walnuts.
Blood samples of the 493 schoolchildren showed, meanwhile, that British children fall below the minimum recommended intake of the brain boosting nutrient: on average, the total levels of omega-3 fatty acids (both DHA and its cousin Eicosapentaenoic acid or EPA), averaged 2.45 percent. The minimum level of omega-3 fatty acids recommended to maintain heart health is four percent in adults.
Scientists also found that nine out of ten children in the sample ate fish less than twice a week, and nearly one in ten never ate fish at all, according to dietary information obtained from the parents. Recommended weekly intake is a minimum of two fish portions a week.
“[T]his study suggests that many, if not most UK children, probably aren't getting enough of the long-chain omega-3 we all need for a healthy brain, heart and immune system,” said study co-author Alex Richardson.
“That gives serious cause for concern because we found that lower blood DHA was linked with poorer behaviour and learning in these children.”
Another study published last year in the print issue of Neurology likewise found that a diet lacking in omega-3 fatty acids may be linked to shrinking brains in older people, causing the brain to age faster and weakening important cognitive functions such as visual memory, problem solving, multi-tasking and abstract thinking.