According to a new study published in the British Journal of Nutrition, higher doses of omega-3 DHA improve early childhood development.
Notice the researchers did not say the supplements were “linked to” early childhood improvements, but instead suggest that improvements are directly caused by DHA-enriched omega-3.
That’s a pretty big deal.
One of the ways scientists are able to move away from making statements about relationships among variables and toward making specific claims is by introducing more control into their study’s design.
The present study was conducted by scientists at the School of Paediatrics and Child Health over at the University of Western Australia. The researchers already knew fish oil was important during early childhood, but wanted to prove it.
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To do that, over 400 infants were recruited to participate in the study. After being chosen at random, the children were given either a daily fish oil supplement containing 250mg of DHA + 60mg of EPA, or a placebo containing olive oil for a period of 6 months.
When the children turned 18 months old, they were tested using a variety of assessments designed to measure their brain development and language skills.
The results, according to lead researcher Suzanne Meldrum, indicated that “children in the [fish oil] group had significantly higher percentile ranks of both later developing gestures at 12 and 18 months and the total number of gestures“.
In other words, a statistically significant number of toddlers showed an increase in both the frequency and variety of non-verbal communication. Many parents will recognize these non-verbals as crucial milestones seen just before children begin saying their first words.
As with all scientific studies, these findings need to be replicated before they can be confirmed.