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Early life nutrition is critical to a child’s development and eventual lifelong health. New research suggests that omega-3 fatty acids might have long-term neurodevelopmental effects in children that ultimately reduce antisocial and aggressive behavior problems.

Omega-3 fatty acids are polyunsaturated fats that are essential for human health. They influence cell membrane integrity, affect membrane-bound cellular receptor functions, and participate in pathways involved in the biosynthesis of hormones that regulate blood clotting, contraction and relaxation of artery walls, and inflammation. Omega-3 fatty acids include alpha-linolenic acid (found in plants), and eicosapentaenoic acid and docosahexaenoic acid (found in fish, seafood, and salmon roe).

The randomized, double‐blind, placebo‐controlled study involved 200 school-aged children (8 to 16 years old) randomized into either a placebo group or a treatment group. The children in the treatment group drank a fruit-based beverage containing 1 gram of mixed omega-3 fatty acids every day for six months. The children in the placebo group drank a similar beverage without omega-3 fatty acids. At the end of the six-month period, the parents and children completed personality assessments and provided reports about the children’s behavior, especially externalizing behavior (such as fighting or lying) and internalizing behavior, such as depression, anxiety, and withdrawal.

The children who took the omega-3 fatty acid-enriched beverage showed marked reductions in negative behaviors. These reductions persisted to the 12-month point, with externalizing behaviors reduced nearly 42 percent, and internalizing behaviors reduced nearly 69 percent. These effects were attributed to the role that omega-3 fatty acids play in neuronal health and neurotransmitter production and function.

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