Can Omega-3 Help Lower Childhood Aggression?

A total of 290 children aged 11-12 were included in the study
A total of 290 children aged 11-12 were included in the study

According to a study published in the Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, adding omega-3, vitamins, and mineral supplements to diets of children with extreme aggression may decrease this problem behavior in the short-term, especially the Aggressive-Reactive form. 

Previous studies have suggested that nutritional supplementation may lower aggressive behavior in children but they have not examined whether its efficacy may be enhanced in conjunction with other treatment approaches. Professor Adrian Raine, from the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA, and colleagues conducted a randomized, single-blind, stratified, factorial trial to test the hypothesis that nutritional supplementation with omega-3, multivitamins, and calcium for 3 months, combined with cognitive behavior therapy (CBT), would reduce childhood aggression. 

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The study randomized a sample of high-risk children (n=290) aged 11–12 years into 4 groups: Nutrition only, CBT only, Nutrition + CBT, and Control. The primary outcome was child- and parent-reported aggressive and antisocial behavior collected at baseline (0 months), end of treatment (3 months), 3 months post-treatment (6 months), and 9 months post-treatment (12 months). 

Study authors found that children in the Nutrition only group demonstrated lower externalizing behavior vs. Controls at 3 month among child self-reports. At 6 months, the Nutrition + CBT group scored lower on externalizing behavior vs. CBT only and Control groups. These findings were more pronounced for an Aggressive-Reactive form of antisocial behavior compared to a Callous-Proactive form. Study authors noted that "group differences were not sustained 9 months post-treatment, and no other effects were significant." 

Overall, study findings offer some support for the efficacy of omega-3, vitamin, and mineral supplementation in lowering aggressive behavior in children, and mark the first study of nutritional supplements in conjunction with CBT.

For more information visit onlinelibrary.wiley.com.


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