Research has long supported the benefits of omega-3 DHA for brain and overall health, and low blood serum levels of  DHA have been reported in children with behavioral or learning disabilities. According to a new study conducted at the University of Oxford in the U.K., an increased diet of omega-3s could help healthy children who are underperforming in school.

The study, which was funded by a grant from DSM Nutritional Products, consisted of 493 healthy seven- to nine-year-olds underperforming in literacy skills at mainstream schools in Oxfordshire, U.K. The students' whole blood fatty acids were measured using the first-ever finger stick test administered to children in the U.K., while reading and working memory were assessed using the British Ability Scales. Behavior (ADHD symptoms) was rated by both parents and teachers using the revised Conners’ Rating Scales.

The blood samples showed that the group averaged a blood fatty acid level of 1.90% of DHA and 0.55% of EPA with a total of 2.46% combined DHA and EPA, well below the recommended 4%. Lower DHA concentrations were associated with poorer reading ability and working memory performance, and lower DHA was associated with higher levels of parent-rated oppositional behavior and emotional liability. As reported by the parents, 88.2% of the children ate fish fewer than two times per week and 9% did not eat fish at all.

Published in WholeFoods Magazine, September 2013 (online 7/12/13)