Algal DHA Improves Child Memory, ADHD and Reading Performance
The researchers conducted a double-blind, placebo-controlled study of 362 healthy children who were seven to nine years old. The children attended school among 74 schools in Oxfordshire, U.K.
The researchers gave the children either 600 milligrams of algal DHA daily for 16 weeks or soybean oil capsules that matched the color and taste of the algal DHA supplement. The children were given the supplements either by parents or schools alternatively.
The research found that those children who were underperforming in reading skills and had behavioral issues such as ADHD symptoms had noticeable improvement in these areas, including cognition, memory, behavior and reading performance, as tested by teachers and reported by parents.
The improvement in reading among the DHA group averaged either 20% more or 50% more among the subgroups of children who were underperforming.
This improvement led to an average of nearly two months of increased reading levels among the poorest reading group.
Among those children with ADHD symptoms, parents of the algal-DHA group reported significant behavior improvement using a 14-point symptom grading scale.
The researchers concluded: “DHA supplementation appears to offer a safe and effective way to improve reading and behavior in healthy but underperforming children from mainstream schools.”
Omega-3 fatty acids, and especially docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), are critical for the functioning of nerve and brain cells. They aid in nerve cell maintenance and development. Alpha linolenic acid (ALA) is the most available omega-3 fatty acid – available from whole grains, seeds, beans and other foods. Once assimilated, a healthy body will convert ALA to eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) at a rate of about 7-15%, depending upon the health of the liver.
However, those who eat a poor diet, who are immune-suppressed, or burdened with toxins such as cigarette smoke or various chemicals may not convert ALA to DHA optimally. Researchers suspect that gamma linolenic acid (GLA) consumption is also necessary for conversion of ALA to DHA. For those with low levels of DHA, or have problems converting ALA and DHA, the natural algae derived from the Pacific Ocean called Golden Algae produces a pure form of DHA. Many health experts feel that this type of DHA is preferable to fish oil that typically contains saturated fats and a greater risk of mercury and PCBs coming from the fish (depending upon the producer). Algal DHA is produced from algae from controlled tanks as opposed to potentially polluted ocean or fish farm habitats.
Richardson AJ, Burton JR, Sewell RP, Spreckelsen TF, Montgomery P. Docosahexaenoic Acid for Reading, Cognition and Behavior in Children Aged 7-9 Years: A Randomized, Controlled Trial (The DOLAB Study). PLoS One. 2012;7(9):e43909.