Junk-food Diet Makes Children Badly Behaved -- Omega 3 Fatty Acids

Junk-food Diet Makes Children Badly Behaved -- Omega 3 Fatty Acids

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Junk-food Diet 'Makes Children Badly Behaved'

Daily Mail

05 May 2005

DIETS high in processed foods are causing bad behaviour and learning difficulties in children, scientists warned yesterday.

They said junk food stops the brain working properly, leading to underachievement and a host of disorders.

Such foods not only lack the vitamins, minerals and essential fatty acids that boost brain power, but actually reduce the body's uptake of nutrients that improve concentration, a study has found.

Thousands of children given medication to combat attention deficit disorder might be better off simply improving their diet, according to the research.

The Oxford University study showed that giving children essential fats found in fish and nuts could improve their brain power.

Their ability to learn was increased and their behaviour dramatically improved by supplementing their diets with such fats.

Startling results in children who were underachieving and in some cases being disruptive were recorded after just three months.

The study involved more than 100 British children battling with physical coordination problems.

They were given daily supplements rich in omega-3 essential fats (fatty acids) that are vital for brain development but have been reduced in the national diet over the last couple of decades.

In the study, around 40 per cent of children given omega-3 fatty acid supplements made dramatic improvements in reading and spelling.

There was also a significant improvement in concentration and behaviour, says a report in this month's issue of the U.S. journal Pediatrics.

Researchers were led by Dr Alexandra Richardson, from Oxford University's department of physiology.

She said: 'Food affects behaviour. To ignore the role of nutrition is indefensible. If you paid attention to diet you could really make a difference.' Patrick Holford, who runs the Brain Bio Centre which tackles mental health problems through nutrition, said: 'We're seeing outrageous imbalances in brain chemistry caused by the kinds of foods that sadly millions of kids are eating, and no one's doing anything about it.

'These kids are digging their own graves with a knife and fork. We know some fats found in processed and fried foods should be avoided.

'However, there are other fats that are essential and a deficiency can negatively impact on a child's behaviour.' The study involved 117 children aged five to 12 in County Durham.  They were of normal ability but underachieving and suspected of having a condition that affects co-ordination.  It is thought to affect at least 5 per cent of British pupils.

Half the children were given omega-3 essential fats capsules for three months, while the rest had 'dummy' treatment with capsules of olive oil.

Those on omega-3 fatty acids made up to ten months' progress in reading in three months, compared with those taking olive oil who made normal progress.

When the children swapped treatments, there was a similar jump forward for those transferred to omega-3 fatty acids for the second three- month period.

After three months on the supplements, half showed such improvement they were no longer classified as having problems.

In some cases, children improved their reading age by up to four years.

Dr Richardson, who is also co-director of the Food and Behaviour Research charity, said unhealthy dietary fats can actually displace the healthy fats in the brain.

Known as trans fats, they are mostly found in processed foods such as crisps, biscuits and cakes.

Many teenagers get 40 per cent of their calories from fat.

The researchers fear that junk-food diets could permanently damage brain development and by adding omega 3 fatty acids may improve a host of health problems.

More Information:  Omega 3 Fatty Acids | EPA/DHA (Omega 3 Fatty Acids) and Anxiety/Substance Abusers

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