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Omega-3s could reduce bad behavior in kids, but don't buy supplements just yet

New research sheds light on how nutrition affects children.
by Laura Ratliff / / Source: TODAY

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Could increased omega-3 help improve your child's behavior? Research conducted by the University of Massachusetts Lowell shows there's a possibility.

But before you jump in the car to the nearest vitamin shop, consult with your family's pediatrician and examine guidelines, health experts recommend.

What the study found

In a year-long study, some 200 children were given either a fruit drink fortified with omega-3s or placebo drinks. Over the course of the year, parents were asked to report on their child’s behavior, as well as their own psychological aggression stemming from their child’s misbehavior.

The group of parents who gave their children the omega-3 juice drink reported less aggression from their child and from themselves, according to the study's co-author Jill Portnoy, assistant professor in the university’s School of Criminology and Justice Studies.

Young little girl with arms crossed and sad
New research suggests omega-3s could help reduce disruptive behavior in children, but pediatricians warn against giving children, especially young children, supplements. Getty Images

It should be noted that the study examined 200 children, which is significantly less than research-standards or recommendations of 1,000 subjects of more. The researchers described the results, published in the journal journal Aggressive Behavior, as "promising."

“This is a promising line of research because omega-3 fatty acids are thought to improve brain health in children and adults,” Portnoy said in a statement. “There is more to be learned about the benefits, but if we can improve people’s brain health and behavior in the process, that’s a really big plus.”

But should you give your child supplements?

Before you give your child a dietary supplement, however, it's important to talk with your family's pediatrician and review the guidelines health experts have given.

The American Academy of Pediatrics does not recommend multivitamins for healthy children who eat a varied diet, citing dangers associated with too much of certain vitamins.

In addition, omega-3 supplements may cause minor stomach problems, such as belching, indigestion, or diarrhea, according to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, a division of the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services.

According to Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, a safe way to make sure your child has gets omega-3s is to serve a few ounces per week of salmon, sardines or trout, fish high in the fatty-acid but low in the dangerous substance, methyl mercury, which children should avoid, according to the Food and Drug Administration and Environmental Protection Agency.

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