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Every parent wants their child to do their best in school, and findings suggest upping their omega-3 intake could help them do just that. The findings, published in the journal Nutrients, suggest that adolescents with a higher Omega-3 Index (the amount of omega-3 fats relative to total fat in red blood cells) may process information faster. The study was part of a larger randomized trial on the effects of omega-3 fats on cognitive function, mental well-being, and academic achievement in teens, called Food2Learn. The current study included data from 266 adolescents, aged 13 to 15, who had a low Omega-3 Index (under 5%). Researchers measured each participant’s Omega-3 Index via blood taken from a finger prick. The adolescents then took a series of cognitive tests including the Letter Digit Substitution Test (LDST), which requires test-takers to match numbers to letters using a key in order to measure their information processing speed, and the D2 test of attention, which measures the ability to focus on specific symbols. After adjusting for variables like age, gender, and participant-reported learning disorders, researchers found that:
• Adolescents with a higher Omega-3 Index performed better on the LDST than those with a lower Omega-3 Index. Every 1% increase on the Omega-3 Index was associated with a 1.23 increase in the number of correct matches on the LDST in 60 seconds.
• Adolescents with a higher Omega-3 Index also performed better on the D2 test of attention, correctly marking more of the designated symbols while making fewer errors, than those with lower omega-3 levels.
This study shows that the amount of omega-3 fats teenagers store in their cells might influence their ability to perform mental tasks, but more clinical research is needed before a cause-and-effect relationship can be established between high omega-3 fat intake and improved cognitive function in adolescents. Meanwhile, as parents wait for scientists to further investigate this connection, it’s well known that fish provides a plethora of health benefits, and the FDA currently recommends adolescents eat eight ounces of fish per week. If you have picky eaters, an omega-3 supplement may also be an option, but be sure to talk with your child’s doctor before adding any supplements to their health regimen.