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Media Release

June 20 2007

A closer look at fish oil, ADHD and kids with learning difficulties

Fish oil capsulesResearchers from the University of South Australia and Queensland University of Technology have plans for a new 12 month study looking at omega-3 fatty acids and ADHD and learning difficulties in children.

The new study is being supported by an Australian Research Council linkage grant and the Australian Technology Network’s Centre for Metabolic Fitness and follows a large 2006 trial conducted by CSIRO Human Nutrition and UniSA which indicated improvements in children’s behaviour associated with an increased intake of omega-3 fatty acids.

In that trial UniSA’s Dr Natalie Sinn found notable improvements in up to 50 per cent of children over 30 weeks taking fish oil capsules rich in the omega-3 fatty acid EPA.

“EPA and DHA are long-chain omega-3 fatty acids that are both found in fish oil,” Dr Sinn said. “We know that omega-3 fatty acid DHA is also very important for brain development, and many parents are confused as to which formulation of fatty acids to buy for their children.

“We now want to compare long-chain omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA to find out which is most important.

"We also want to look more closely at the potential benefits of omega-3s for literacy in the subgroup of children with ADHD who suffer from learning difficulties."

Dr Sinn said the new study would also investigate blood fatty acid levels in the children to help gain more information about which children were most likely to benefit from taking fish oil for learning and behaviour.

Researchers want to work with parents in SA and Qld and their children aged from 7-12 years who have ADHD – problems with hyperactivity, impulsivity, attention and concentration, have reading or writing difficulties and who are not already taking fish oil or stimulant medication.

Participants will need to visit the ATN centre at UniSA’s City East campus or QUT four times over 12 months to complete parent questionnaires, psychological cognitive assessments and provide blood samples.

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