Food and Behaviour Research

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30 September 2005 - The Brighton Argus - Fish oil may be on the menu in schools

Jenny Legg

Children could get daily fish oil supplements at school to improve learning and behaviour.

David Hawker, the director of children, families and schools in Brighton and Hove, said he would look into the possibility of supplying supplements to schools after attending a conference on school dinners yesterday.

Dr Alex Richardson, a senior research fellow at Oxford University, told delegates omega-3 and omega-6 fats - found mainly in fish oils - were essential for good health and in particular the brain, which is 60 per cent fat.

She said there was mounting evidence that a lack of these fats could contribute to behaviour and learning problems such as dyslexia, dyspraxia and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and that more research was needed to establish how many school children would benefit from nutritional supplements.

Hilary Reed, who supports dyslexic children as the head of the primary special facility at Brighton and Hove City Council, said she advised parents to give tablet or liquid fish oil supplements to children because she noticed a tangible difference to their learning and behaviour.

She said: "Why can't we dispense fish oils in our schools? Wherever there is a choice for children about their food you cannot control their diet but you can supplement it.

"If we were to supplement in schools it would be a massively cost-effective programme because it prevents problems in the future."

She said 52 per cent of London prisoners were dyslexic. Dr Richardson also highlighted a clinical trial where young offenders given vitamin and fish-oil supplements committed up to 34 per cent less crime than those given a placebo.

Mr Hawker said: "It would be great if we could pay for it. There may be creative ways of doing that. I shall be looking at it as a result of this conference."

The Better Food Conference was organised by the Department of Health South East Regional Public Health Group at Sussex University and was attended by 150 teachers, governors and caterers.