Research: Could Omega-3 Supplementation Drive Positive Behavioral Changes?

AP Photo/Hani Mohammed

A 2014 study of children administered omega-3 supplementation (the kind of fatty acid prevalent in fish, chia seeds, walnuts, and other foods) concluded with curious long-term improvements in their behavior problems, as reported by the parents.

This might suggest omega-3 supplementation could prove a potentially powerful therapeutic agent for fixing behavioral problems in adults and children. 

Via Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry (emphasis added:

In this randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, stratified, parallel-group trial, a community sample of 8–16 year old children were randomized into a treatment group (N = 100) and a placebo-control group (N = 100). The supplementation consisted of a fruit drink containing 1 g/day of omega-3 or a placebo consisting of the same fruit drink without omega-3. Participants, caregivers, and research assistants were blinded to group assignment. The primary outcome measures of externalizing and internalizing behavior problems were reported by both caregivers and their children in a laboratory setting at 0 months (baseline), 6 months (end of treatment) and 12 months (6 months post treatment), together with the secondary outcome measures of parental antisocial behavior…

Significant group × time interactions were observed with the treatment group showing long-term improvements in child behavior problems

Findings provide initial evidence that omega-3 supplementation can produce sustained reductions in externalizing and internalizing behavior problems.

Similar research has been conducted in the past ten years, for instance, a meta-analysis on the relationship between omega-3 status and aggression.

Via New Atlas (emphasis added):

[A] study by researchers from the University of Pennsylvania (Penn) found that commonplace omega-3 supplements reduced aggression, regardless of age or gender

The researchers conducted a meta-analysis of 29 randomized controlled trials that explicitly measured aggression in people who’d been given omega-3 supplements. They specifically focused on aggressive behavior and not broader traits like anger, which is viewed more as a feeling or emotion, and hostility, which is more of an attitude. Studies where additional nutritional supplements, such as calcium and vitamin D, were included, but the researchers examined them as a potential moderator.

A modest short-term effect linked to omega-3 supplementation, which the researchers say equates to a 30% reduction in aggression, was seen across age, gender, baseline diagnosis, treatment duration and dosage. Notably, omega-3 was found to reduce both reactive and proactive aggression. The researchers were limited to short-term data because only one out of the 19 laboratories conducting the studies followed up with participants after supplementation ended.

Numerous plausible physiological mechanisms might underpin the findings that omega-3 supplementation could reduce aggression (and possibly other negative behaviors and emotions).


Previous studies have pointed to aggressive and violent behavior having a cognitive and neurochemical basis. And, omega-3 is known to play a critical role in brain structure and function, including regulating neurotransmitters and gene expression, and reduces brain inflammation.

I suspect that what drives these statistically significant results is the incredibly poor Standard American Diet (SAD), sometimes called the Western diet (although that’s an anachronism as this eating style has been exported worldwide, to the detriment of fat children’s growing waistlines everywhere, not just in the West).

One of the definitive features of SAD is the unnatural and stark ratio of omega-6 fatty acids (mostly from seed oils) to omega-3 — the ideal ratio of which is generally recognized as 4:1 but in modern times is more like 20:1

Via Missouri Medicine (emphasis added):

Marine omega-3s have been consumed by our ancestors for millions of years. Estimates indicate that during the Paleolithic era, the intake of the marine omega-3s eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) was approximately 660–14,250 mg/day, compared to just 100–200 mg/day today. Furthermore, the omega-6/3 ratio has increased from around 4:1 during Paleolithic times to 20:1 today

Over the last 100 years, the intake of the omega-6 fat linoleic acid in the United States has more than doubled. This is primarily due to the increased consumption of omega-6 rich seed oils, such as soybean, corn, and safflower oil, the latter two having an omega-6/3 ratio of approximately 60:1 and 77:1, respectively. Additionally, since the 1950s, there has been an approximate 2.5-fold increase in linoleic acid stored in adipose tissue in the United States. The increase in the omega-6/3 ratio has paralleled the rise in numerous autoimmune, inflammatory, and allergic diseases. Omega-3s are utilized by the body to resolve and lower inflammation, whereas omega-6 polyunsaturated fatty acids are primarily used for increasing inflammation.

Despite the evidence pointing to omega-3 optimization, for some opaque reason, my best guess is that we won’t see any mass government initiatives to spread the message in the same way we do for expensive “safe and effective” pharmaceutical drugs, nor will advertisements for omega-3 saturate the corporate media airwaves to nearly the same degree.

I wonder why?


Trending on PJ Media Videos