Calamari Oil, DHA and Learning & Behaviour in Children
We’ve seen a huge increase in interest in calamari oil on the site recently. Whilst calamari oil – sometimes also referred to as squid oil – has been marketed in the U.S for some years now, it is still a relatively new supplement here in Australia. As such, it is worth taking a little time to look at the science behind the marketing claims around calamari oil and in particular the benefits it can offer due to it’s high level of omega 3 DHA. Is calamari oil going to make a difference to your child’s learning and memory?
Calamari Oil and Omega 3 DHA: the science
As mentioned above, Calamari oil is a rich source of an essential fatty acid named ‘omega-3 DHA’. DHA is one of a group of Omega-3’s - a type of healthy fat that makes up a large percentage of the brain and is critical for a number of bodily functions, including brain health & cognitive function. Omega-3 DHA – a certain type of omega-3 – has a wealth of research behind it, and has been shown to support everything from heart health to eye health, joint health and, of course, brain health. But does the research specifically suggest that calamari oil supplements – or, more specifically, increased DHA intake – have positive learning and cognitive effects on children? Let’s dig deeper.
OMEGA 3 DHA: Research for Children
So we have established that calamari oil (as opposed to calamari rings) is high in omega-3 DHA, and that DHA is good for brain health (among other things). There has been more research done on the benefits of omega-3s than just about any other form of natural supplement. This is comforting news – with so much interest in research into omega 3s, weaker studies usually get weeded out fairly quickly as a result of critical peer review. Whilst there are a number of studies that suggest increasing omega-3 DHA levels in deficient persons can lead to increased mental performance, the 2012 DOLAB study^1 from the University of Oxford specifically studies it’s effects on children and learning outcomes. As such, it represents one of the more comprehensive studies on DHA in children’s development, and showed a strong relationship between low omega-3 DHA intake and behavioral and learning problems.
Using a sample of 362 children aged 7-9, the study shows that children with low DHA levels generally experienced the following learning and behavioural challenges. Students with low omega-3 DHA levels generally suffered:
- poor behaviour
- poor learning outcomes
- poor reading ability
Giving the children who were DHA deficient (and thus experiencing these learning difficulties) an omega-3 DHA supplement (600mg/day) resulted in a statistically significant improvement of the following learning and cognitive measures. increasing DHA levels:
- improved reading age
- improved behavioural rating (as rated by parents)
- improved memory & number recall.
What does this mean?
The DOLAB study into the relationship between Omega-3 DHA supplements and learning and behaviour is not isolated in it's findings… there are a wealth of other studies that have suggested similar benefits for learning and behaviour from maintaining sufficient omega-3 DHA levels. With calamari oil being higher in DHA than fish oil, algal sources and krill oil, and given that the evidence supporting DHA’s effect on learning in children is strong, it is reasonable to suggest that calamari oil may, in fact, be an effective support brain function and cognitive development in your child.
(EDITOR’S NOTE: Calamari Oil is obviously derived from seafood, so children with seafood allergies should beware).
1 - Richardson AJ, Burton JR, Sewell RP, Spreckelsen TF, Montgomery P (2012) Docosahexaenoic Acid for Reading, Cognition and Behavior in Children Aged 7–9 Years: A Randomized, Controlled Trial (The DOLAB Study).PLoS ONE 7(9):e43909.doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0043909