Omega-3 and cognitive performance in adolescents


The brain develops until after age 20. During adolescence, the brain area most in development is the prefrontal cortex (an area especially enriched in DHA), which is very important in higher cognitive functions (inhibition and interference, working memory, and cognitive flexibility). These functions are used in reasoning and problem solving. So, they are important for academic success, although, of course, school performance depends also on other factors such as time spent on homework and personality.

In studies with teenagers, it has been observed a beneficial association between fish intake (the main source of the omega-3 fatty acids DHA and EPA), cognitive performance, and average academic qualifications. Recently, it has been evaluated the association between the Omega-3 Index (percentage of EPA + DHA regarding total fatty acids, in red blood cells), as a measure more accurate than “intake”, and cognitive performance in typically developing adolescents. The outcomes show that higher Omega-3 Index is associated with better information processing speeds and, also, that students with a higher Omega-3 Index have fewer errors of omission on a test of attention (which means more attention and less impulsivity).

These findings provide us with an easy tool to help our children increase their Omega-3 Index.



van der Wurff IS, von Schacky C, Berge K et al. Association between Blood Omega-3 Index and Cognition in Typically Developing Dutch Adolescents. Nutrients. 2016 Jan 2;8(1). pii: E13. doi: 10.3390/nu8010013.


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