Oxford University researchers presented some research at a London conference this month linking low omega-3 blood content with children who struggled with reading. Their research was also published in the journal PlOS One.
This study was one of the first to evaluate omega-3 fatty acid blood levels in U.K. children. Blood samples were taken from 493 schoolchildren between the ages of 7 and 9 years old. All of the children in the study were below average in reading skills. All of these children were found to have omega-3 levels below the minimum percent suggested by scientists for cardiovascular health.
Professor Paul Montgomery, co-author of the study, said this about the study: "From a sample of nearly 500 schoolchildren, we found that levels of omega-3 fatty acids in the blood significantly predicted a child's behavior and ability to learn. Higher levels of omega-3 in the blood, and DHA in particular, were associated with better reading and memory, as well as with fewer behavior problems as rated by parents and teachers."
In other words, the lower the child’s omega-3 fatty acids, the more likely that child was to have behavioral and learning issues.
It’s not surprising to learn that most of these children did not eat fish often, helping explain the deficient. But it can be hard to get children to eat fish. Here are a few tips.
— Get fresh fish: Adults and children alike will be unlikely to eat seafood if it’s old and smelly — simply because fish tastes best fresh. I grew up thinking I didn’t like seafood until someone treated me to freshly caught cooked fish at a nice restaurant. I was amazed to find how delicate and delicious fish could be.
— Make it fun and delicious: Make homemade fish sticks and dipping sauces, serve it as a creamy chowder, flake fish into a favorite mac-and-cheese recipe. There are a lot of ways you can incorporate fish into a meal that is fun and/or not overwhelming to a child learning to adjust to a seafood flavor. Since we love Asian food, a favorite is my Seafood Fried Rice.
— Start early: From the womb on, you have the opportunity to introduce your child to new flavors. Starting early can help a child naturally love certain flavors. But if you are starting with an older child, don't despair. I didn’t learn to like fish until high school.
Just make sure that you are concentrating on serving seafood that is omega-3 rich, and sustainable and low-mercury. Here is my favorite resource for more information, the Monterey Bay Aquarium: http://www.montereybayaquarium.org/
This article — http://www.mnn.com/food/healthy-eating/blogs/low-omega-3-levels-could-explain-why-some-children-have-reading-problems — originally appeared on the Mother Nature Network at www.mnn.com