Parents who buy fish oil tablets to boost their children’s brain power are wasting their money, the largest study of its kind suggests.
An analysis of primary school pupils found that reading, spelling and handwriting were not improved by taking omega-3 ‘clever capsules’. It contradicts a raft of other research which has credited the pills and powders with boosting mental ability and exam grades.
But the academics say their study is more thorough than many others. Rather than just giving fish oils to all the children, some were given dummy pills instead, a technique that allows for a truer picture of any resulting benefits. For four months, 450 children aged eight to ten at 18 schools in South Wales took either omega-3 supplements or placebos.
The children, parents, teachers and even the researchers were unaware of who had taken what until the end of the study. The results of a battery of tests revealed the fish oil pills did not improve the youngsters’ work – although it did appear that those taking them were more attentive.
Researchers also found that around 30 of the 450 children had very low levels of omega-3 fat in their blood to begin with.