Could omega-3 be the chill pill for aggro kids? A recent study suggests the fatty acid reduced extreme aggression in children. But don’t refurnish the Time Out Corner yet. The effects of the omegas vanished six months after supplementation ended.
The study’s leader, Adrian Raine, the Richard Perry University Professor of Criminology, Psychology and Psychiatry at the University of Pennsylvania, conducted a previous, similar study on aggressive adolescents in Mauritius. He found that fish oil did lead to a reduction in aggression and antisocial behavior. He designed this new study for a non-island population, focusing on subjects in Philadelphia, aiming for more broadly applicable outcomes, according to a university release.
The Philadelphia randomized control study placed 290 11- and 12-year-olds with a history of violence into four groups: The first received omega-3 in the form of juice, as well as multivitamins and calcium for three months. For the same time, a second group participated in cognitive behavioral therapy, or CBT, which included meeting weekly for an hour, with time split between the child, the parent and with both together. A third group took the supplements and participated in CBT, and a fourth received resources and information targeted at reducing aggressive behavior. The researchers took blood samples to measure omega-3 levels at the beginning and end of the trial.
"Immediately after three months of the nutritional intervention rich in omega-3s, we found a decrease in the children's reporting of their aggressive behavior," Richmond said in the release. The team also followed up three and six months later.
At the first check-in, participants getting the combination of CBT and omega-3s reported less aggression than the control group and the therapy-only group. By the final check-in, however, any positive effects had dissipated. It remains unknown whether continued use of omega-3s would lead to a long-term reduction in antisocial behavior.
"No matter what program you use, could adding omega-3s to your treatment help?" Raine asked. "This suggests it could."
The results were published in the Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry.