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Omega-3 Fats Improve Attention, Behavior and Intelligence

Several studies have demonstrated that children with lower levels of omega-3 fatty acids in their bloodstream have significantly more behavioral problems, temper tantrums, and learning, health, and sleep problems than do those children with high proportions of those fatty acids. In a similar study, 53 children with ADHD had significantly lower proportions of key fatty acids (AA, EPA, and DHA) in their blood than did 43 control subjects. Children with lower omega-3 levels had lower behavioral assessment scores (Conners’ Parent Rating Scale) and teacher scores of academic abilities.

The researchers speculated that an inefficient conversion of polyunsaturated fatty acids to AA and DHA may have been a significant factor in the lower levels of those fats in ADHD children. In one study, the researchers showed that children with ADHD were breast-fed less often as infants than were the control children. They assume that the high levels of DHA in breast milk could be responsible for better performance later in life since infants are inefficient at converting polyunsaturated fats from other sources into the valuable omega-3 fat DHA that is essential for brain development. Early childhood breast-feeding has been associated with higher intelligence and high school attainment in later childhood, and in 15 and 18 year-olds. A study published in 2002 also showed a significant association between intelligence levels in adults and the duration of their breastfeeding as infants.

How to improve attention and behavior

The take home message from these reports is to feed your children natural foods (whole grains, fruits, and vegetables). Eliminate refined sugar and chemicals from the diet. Avoid polyunsaturated oils (corn, safflower, canola, etc.) and partially hydrogenated oils (in most cookies, chips, and crackers).

Give children an omega-3 supplement in the form of cod liver oil (1 tspn per 50 lbs of body weight) or a high DHA fish oil or Neuromins algae capsule (100-250 mg DHA). For children with attention or learning problems also add 100-200 mg of phosphatidylserine (derived from soy lecithin) to also improve nerve function.


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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Dr. Neustaedter has practiced homeopathy and oriental medicine for over 25 years, specializing in child health care. An accomplished and well-recognized author, he has written The Vaccine Guide: Risks and Benefits for Children and Adults (North Atlantic Books, 2002), a book that helps consumers make informed choices about vaccination. His new book, Child Health Guide: Holistic Pediatrics for Parents (North Atlantic Books, 2005), represents a state of the art guide to raising children with natural medical care. He can be reached through his extensive website at

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