DHA derived from algae improves reading and attention in children who are poor readers

September 17, 2012

In children trailing behind their peers having a reading ability two years behind the expected level giving DHA derived from Algae had a robust impact in aiding these underperforming children. DHA is one of the two key fats found in fish the other being EPA; these collectively are often referred to as fish oils or omega-3 fatty acids. DHA is needed for the development of the brain, nervous system and retina in infants and it has an effect on the brain throughout life. In this case the DHA was derived from tiny single-celled aquatic plants known as algae.

In the 16-week study 362 British kids, aged 7 to 9 from schools across Oxfordshire were supplemented with 600mg Algal DHA each day or they received inactive placebo. There was a significant improvement in reading performance among the subgroups of children who were underperforming in literacy skills based on the British Ability Scales among students in the lowest 20th percentile of reading improvement in reading in these poorer readers was 20 percent and in the lowest 10th percentile of readers improvement was nearly 50 percent greater, respectively, than would normally be expected, helping these children to catch up with their peer group. In general, considering the other underperforming children who in general were doing better children's reading ages typically increase by four months over a 16-week period.

In addition to the promising results found in the subgroups, an overall effect was found versus placebo in improved parent-reported behavior (ADHD-type symptoms). Analysis showed significant effects of algal DHA over placebo on eight of the 14 scales assessing a range of ADHD-type symptoms. For example, children in the control group had fewer oppositional symptoms and less hyperactivity as reported by their parents.

The Oxford University researchers state that Algal DHA was a “safe and effective way to improve reading and behavior in healthy but underperforming children”.  The study is published September 6th, 2012 in the journal PloS One.