A study published online in PLOS-One Journal found that supplementation with 600 mg algal DHA for 16 weeks improves reading and behavior in healthy school-aged children with low reading scores. The Docosahexaenoic Acid (DHA) Oxford Learning and Behavior (DOLAB) trial is the first large, randomized and placebo-controlled study demonstrating the benefits of DHA in reading and behavior among healthy school children.
In an analysis of 224 children with baseline reading scores below the 20th percentile, algal DHA supplementation significantly improved reading. Reading was also significantly improved in the subgroup of 105 children with baseline reading scores below the 10th percentile. Reading performance was evaluated using a standardized word reading test, The British Ability Scales (BAS II).
When comparing reading ages, results from the DOLAB Study also found that supplementation with algal DHA led to an additional gain in reading age; supplementation with 600 mg algal DHA for 16 weeks led to an additional 0.8 month gain in reading age in children with baseline readings scores below the 20th percentile. In addition, for children with baseline readings scores below the 10th percentile, algal DHA supplementation led to an additional 1.9 month gain in reading age.
Interestingly, the results come at a time when many school-aged children lack sufficient reading skills. According to the most recent report card by the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), students in the United States continue to struggle with reading, the most fundamental educational skill.
Four Dimensions of Brain Health
Though studies confirm that people of all ages benefit from incorporating DHA into their diet, most people eating a Western diet do not consume enough DHA. It’s critically important— especially for children—to consume an adequate amount of DHA to develop brain function.
According to David Perlmutter, M.D., Board-Certified Neurologist and Fellow of the American College of Nutrition, along with increasing DHA consumption, it’s important for kids to have proper nourishment, enough social connectedness, plenty of physical activity and activities for mental engagement. These factors are known as the four dimensions of brain health and research has shown that incorporating these lifestyle factors may influence brain health and function.
- The Nourished Mind: Start a healthy diet young. Incorporate healthy foods into family routines that are low in saturated fat and added sugar. Try adding antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables and brain-healthy foods such as good fats like DHA, including algal DHA fortified foods and beverages and algal DHA supplements.
- The Mentally Engaged Mind: School is a great time to challenge a child’s brain, but it’s important to continually stimulate mental activity. Suggest and take part in activities such as reading, playing board games, creative pursuits like dancing or painting, or learning a new language or skill.
- The Socially Connected Mind: Make time for everyone in the family to step away from the computer and video games. Encourage children to make human connections and engage in social activities, such as play dates, clubs and volunteering.
- The Physically Active Mind: Everyone in the family can get physically active for at least 30 minutes a day most days of the week. Encourage children to play a sport or play with friends outside, and help them make smart decisions, such as getting enough sleep every night.
Click here to learn more about the DOLAB trial.