Forget giving your kid a timeout the next time he pushes a playmate off the jungle gym. Your best hope might be fish oil.
A recent study found that omega-3’s not only improved kids’ behavior, it also improved parents’ behavior, more evidence that polyunsaturated fatty acids may truly make the world a happier place. The study, published in the Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, was noted on philly.com.
Adrian Raine, a psychologist in the University of Pennsylvania’s criminology department who studies psychopaths, studied 200 children with a normal range of behavior on the African island of Mauritius. In the randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study, each day for six months, researchers gave half of the children, ages eight through 16, a fruit drink laced with a Norwegian supplement called Smartfish that contains one gram of omega-3s. The other half drank just fruit drink. Behaviors such as aggressive, antisocial acts (externalizing behavior) and anxiety and depression (internalizing behavior) were evaluated at the beginning of the trial, after six months and after 12 months.
Parents reported a 42-percent reduction in externalizing behavior and a 68-percent drop in internalizing behavior in kids who got the Smartfish. The kids themselves reported a 59-percent drop in reactive aggression (think: you hit me, and I hit back) and a 50-percent reduction in aggression they initiated. They didn’t think they were less depressed or anxious.
Perhaps most interestingly, researchers found the parents (who did not raid their kids’ Smartfish stash – they were tested), also experienced significant improvements in their own antisocial and aggressive behaviors.
Why? Raine’s guess, according to philly.com: "It's plausible that, if the kid is easier to deal with, then there's less stress on the parent, and, with less stress, the parent may chill out more," he said.
Raine led a bigger study that included cognitive behavioral therapy as well as fish oil, with Philadelphia children with antisocial or aggressive behavior. The data from that study are still be analyzed.
An earlier study linked low omega-3 levels with aggressive behavior in young adults.
In the meantime, parents and kids hoping to rush out to buy shots of Smartfish for one another other will be disappointed: It’s not sold in the United States. They can, of course, always enjoy a daily sardine snack together.