SEP 29, 2022 7:01 AM PDT

Omega 3's Increase Attention, Reduce Impulsivity in Teenagers

WRITTEN BY: Annie Lennon

Omega-3 fatty acids from fish are linked to greater selective and sustained attention in teenagers, while omega 3’s from plants are linked to lower impulsivity. The study was published in European Child & Adolescent Psychiatry

It has been known for some time that docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), an omega-3 fatty acid found in fish, is the most abundant fatty acid in the brain. 

While DHA is known to be important for brain development, few studies have evaluated its role in attention performance among healthy adolescents. 

The effects of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), an omega-3 fatty acid found in vegetables, are also unknown. Investigating the effects of ALA on brain development could provide important information to societies with low levels of fish consumption. 

In the current study, researchers recruited 372 adolescents with an average age of 13.8 years from different schools in Barcelona, Spain. They underwent computerized tests to measure their reaction times, attention capacity, how they handle distracting stimuli, and impulsivity. 

They also answered questionnaires on dietary habits and provided blood samples to measure their levels of DHA and ALA. 

After analyzing the results, the researchers found that participants with the highest levels of DHA tended to have significantly higher attentiveness than those with lower levels of DHA. They also found that higher levels of ALA may result in lower impulsivity. They noted, however, that ALA’s effects on attention remain unclear.

"The role of ALA in attention control is still unclear, but this finding may be clinically relevant, as impulsivity is a feature of several psychiatric conditions, such as ADHD," explained Ariadna Pinar-Martí of Universitat Pompeu Fabra in Barcelona, the first author of the study.

The researchers concluded that intervention studies are needed to determine their findings' underlying causal mechanisms. Such studies, they noted, could help 'shape dietary recommendations for brain health during the adolescence period.'


Sources: European Child & Adolescent PsychiatryScience Daily


About the Author
Annie Lennon is a writer whose work also appears in Medical News Today, Psych Central, Psychology Today, and other outlets. When she's not writing, she is COO of Xeurix, an HR startup that assesses jobfit from gamified workplace simulations.
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