PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – Could something as simple as a supplement curb aggressive behavior in children?
Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania say the answer might be yes.
According to a new study, omega-3, a fatty acid that’s commonly found in fish oil, could help reduce behavior problems in kids who tend to be aggressive and anti-social.
Three Penn scientists worked on the research, which focused on children living on Mauritius. The control group of 100 kids between 8- and 16-years-old received an omega-3 infused juice drink once a day for six months, while one hundred other kids got the same drink but without the gram of omega-3.
In the beginning of the study as well as at six months and 12 months, the kids and their parents took a series of personality assessments and questionnaires to determine the effects of the supplements. Those personality tests had parents rate their kids for “externalizing” aggressive and anti-social behavior (like fighting or lying) as well as “internalizing” behavior (such as depression and anxiety). Children were also told to rate themselves.
Both groups shows improvement in externalizing and internalizing behavior after six months, which lead researcher Adrian Raine suggests is due to the placebo effect.
“But what was particularly interesting was what was happening at 12 months. The control group returned to the baseline while the omega-3 group continued to go down,” Raine says on the school’s website. “In the end, we saw a 42 percent reduction in scores on externalizing behavior and a 62 percent reduction in internalizing behavior.”
While researchers say their work is still in the early stages, they also say it provides “reason to further examine omega-3’s role as a potential early intervention for antisocial behavior.”