Research Cluster: CEBI
Start Date: 01.09.2012
End Date: 31.08.2015
The DHA (docasahexaenoic acid) Oxford Learning and Behaviour (DOLAB) confirmatory study
Funded by: DSM Dutch State Mining
There has been mounting interest in the possible benefits of an increased dietary intake of Omega-3 for mental and physical health. Unfortunately, average levels of Omega-3 are very low in most modern Western-type diets. Previous research has shown that increasing children’s dietary intake of the Omega-3 found in fish and seafood (EPA and DHA) can improve their concentration, reduce disruptive behaviour and boost reading and spelling progress.
The DOLAB I study built on the growing research base in this field. This large double-blind, randomised, placebo-controlled trial investigated the effects of Omega-3 fatty acid supplementation on reading and behaviour in school children. It involved 362 children from 74 Oxfordshire primary schools. It compared the effects of supplementation with DHA vs placebo over 16 weeks.
The findings appear promising, particularly for the poorest readers (those in the lowest fifth of the normal population range on a standardised reading assessment). For these children, both reading ability and behaviour reported by parents have shown a significant improvement in those children who received active treatment compared with those on placebo over the 16-week treatment period.
If these results can be confirmed, the implications would be profound, since there is an urgent need for safe, effective interventions for child learning and behavioural problems, which create substantial costs for society and affected individuals. The team has funding to carry out a replication study looking at the effects of DHA, specifically in those children who fall into the lowest 20% of readers for their age. This will be a larger study, and the aim is to enlist the help of at least six local authorities.
See press coverage of the study.
Richardson, Alexandra J., Burton, Jennifer, Sewell, Richard, Spreckelsen, Thees & Montgomery, Paul. (2012) "Docosahexaenoic Acid for Reading, Cognition and Behavior in Children Aged 7-9 Years: A Randomized, Controlled Trial (The DOLAB Study)", PLoS One 7: 9 e43909. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0043909. Download
Montgomery, Paul; Burton, Jenny R.; Sewell, Richard P.; Spreckelsen, Thees F.; Richardson, Alexandra J. (2014) "Fatty acids and sleep in UK children: Subjective and pilot objective sleep results from the DOLAB study – A randomized controlled trial.", Journal of Sleep Research 23: 4 364-388. doi: 10.1111/jsr.12135. Download
Montgomery, Paul, Burton, Jennifer R., Sewell, Richard P., Spreckelsen, Thees F. & Richardson, Alexandra J. (2013) "Low Blood Long Chain Omega-3 Fatty Acids in UK Children Are Associated with Poor Cognitive Performance and Behavior: A Cross-Sectional Analysis from the DOLAB Study", PLoS One 8: 6 e66697. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0066697. Download