Omega-3 supplements could reduce disruptive, even abusive behaviour in children, according to a research by UMass Lowell, a US national research university.


“This is a promising line of research because omega-3 fatty acids are thought to improve brain health in children and adults,” said Jill Portnoy, an assistant professor in UMass Lowell’s school of criminology and justice studies.

“There is more to be learned about the benefits, but if we can improve people’s brain health and behaviour in the process, that’s a really big plus.”

According to the research, published in the journal Aggressive Behavior, giving children omega-3 fatty acid supplements reduces disruptive behaviour, which in turn had a positive effect on their parents, making them less likely to argue with each other and engage in verbal abuse.


In the trial, a community sample of children was randomised to receive either a fruit drink containing 1 gm of omega-3 fats or the same fruit drink without omega-3.

According to the research, child participants, adult caregivers, and research staff were blinded to group assignment.

The result is the first to show that omega-3 supplementation in children can reduce inter-partner psychological aggression among adult caregivers not receiving supplements.


The new study is just one example of how Portnoy is studying biological and social factors that can help explain and predict impulsive and risky behaviour.

The goal is to help determine effective ways to intervene before anti-social behaviour escalates into crime, according to the study.

“Biology and social environment interact in complex ways that we’re just beginning to figure out. Before we can design effective interventions, we need to do research to understand what’s happening,” said Portnoy.


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