Consuming omega-3 fatty acid supplements can potentially reduce disruptive and even abusive behaviour in kids, researchers have found. Improving child behaviour could also lead to improvements in parent behaviour. However no study has examined whether omega-3 supplementation in children could reduce intimate partner violence or child maltreatment by their adult caregivers, the researchers said.
“This is a promising line of research because omega-3 fatty acids are thought to improve brain health in children and adults,” said Jill Portnoy, Assistant Professor in the University of Massachusetts – Lowell, US. “There is more to be learned about the benefits, but if we can improve people’s brain health, and behaviour in the process, that’s a really big plus,” Portnoy added.
The research is an example of how biological and social factors can help explain and predict impulsive and risky behaviour in children, he said. For the study, published in the journal Aggressive Behaviour, a group of 200 children were randomized to receive either a fruit drink containing 1 gm of omega-3 fats and a placebo group drank the same fruit drink without omega-3.
Caregivers of children in the omega-3 group reported long-term reductions in psychological aggression. Improvements in adult psychological aggression were correlated with improvements in child externalizing behaviour scores. No differences were reported for child maltreatment.
“This study is the first to show that omega-3 supplementation in children can reduce inter-partner psychological aggression among adult caregivers not receiving supplements,” the researchers said. “Findings suggest that improving child behaviour through omega-3 supplementation could have long-term benefits to the family system as a whole,” they noted.