A deficiency of of omega-3 fatty acids has been linked to various medical and developmental issues throughout the years. A deficiency during pregnancy can increase the risk of giving birth to infants with autism, and it can also makes teens more likely to become hyperactive and develop ADHD later in life. In new research, omega-3 acid definitely may also hinder a child’s reading skills.

An Oxford University study has shown that a representative sample of UK schoolchildren aged seven to nine years had low levels of key Omega-3 fatty acids in their blood. These low levels of omega-3 were able to accurately predict how well the children were able to concentrate and learn.

The findings of the research were recently published in the journal PLOS One, at a conference in London on 4 September. At the conference, co-authors of the study Dr. Alex Richardson and Professor Paul Montgomery from Oxford University's Centre for Evidence-Based Intervention in the Department of Social Policy and Intervention explained that they found.

Long-chain omega-3 acids are found in fish, various types of seafood, and in some algae. They are crucial for the healthy development of the brain’s structure and function, and they also help keep the heart and immune system healthy. Generally, two servings of fish or other foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids are recommended each week as a part of a healthy diet.

In the study, samples of blood were taken from 493 schoolchildren between the ages of seven and nine years old. All of the children had below-average reading skills based on a national reading assessment. Tests run on the blood showed that about 2% of the children’s blood fatty acids were omega-3 DHA and about .5 were omega-3 EPA, which is a total of 2.45% long-chain omega-3 acids in total. According to leading scientists, the recommended percentage to maintain cardiovascular health is 4%, and to ensure optimal health, the 8-12% is recommended.

Richardson says that “the longer term health implications of such low blood Omega-3 levels in children obviously can't be known. But this 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.”

These levels in adults would usually indicate a high risk of heart disease, but for children, it’s causing them to become highly distracted and unable to concentrate in school, leading to poor reading skills. The only way to counter these effects is to add more omeg-3 fatty acids to their diets.

Source: University of Oxford (2013, September 13). Low omega-3 could explain why some children struggle with reading. ScienceDaily.