Thursday, April 29, 2010

Double blind study ends fish oil myth

But there is a lot of face-saving going on

Parents who buy fish oil tablets to boost their children’s brain power are wasting their money, the largest study of its kind suggests. An analysis of primary school pupils found that reading, spelling and handwriting were not improved by taking omega-3 ‘clever capsules’.

It contradicts a raft of other research which has credited the pills and powders with boosting mental ability and exam grades.

But the academics say their study is more thorough than many others. Rather than just giving fish oils to all the children, some were given dummy pills instead, a technique that allows for a truer picture of any resulting benefits.

For four months, 450 children aged eight to ten at 18 schools in South Wales took either omega-3 supplements or placebos. The children, parents, teachers and even the researchers were unaware of who had taken what until the end of the study.

The results of a battery of tests revealed the fish oil pills did not improve the youngsters’ work – although it did appear that those taking them were more attentive.

Researchers also found that around 30 of the 450 children had very low levels of omega-3 fat in their blood to begin with.

Researcher Professor Amanda Kirby said the study was bigger than any other of its kind. She said that while supplements might help some youngsters who have trouble concentrating in class, the conclusion for parents of children who are not having problems at school is that healthy eating is all that is needed.

She said: ‘The primary message always has got to be to start with a good diet. ‘We have to look at eating more fish and less processed food. ‘It is not just that children are eating less fish, they are eating more rubbish as well. ‘If children have a relatively varied diet and don’t seem to have problems, it is probably not going to help them.’

For youngsters with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder or learning difficulties, fish oils are ‘worth a try’, she said.

Professor Kirby, of the University of Wales, said that more research was needed into the wider benefits of omega-3 pills, which cost from £3 to £15 for a month’s supply.

Abundant in fish such as herring, mackerel, salmon and fresh tuna, the fats have been credited with health benefits from staving off heart disease, cancer and depression, to warding off Alzheimer’s disease.

The professor said: ‘Fatty acids make up 20 per cent of the brain and are going to have an effect in a number of different ways. ‘Some of the studies on cardiovascular disease and Alzheimer’s disease are pretty convincing, but we need more research.’

Last week, a British study questioned the ability of fish oil supplements to keep the mind sharp into old age. Researcher Alan Dangour, of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, studied 900 volunteers aged 70 to 80 from England and Wales. Those who took fish oils had far greater levels of omega-3 in their bloodstream but fared no better in the tests.

Dr Dangour said: ‘Although this is the longest trial of its kind ever conducted, it may be that it was not long enough for any true beneficial effects to be detected.’

Last night, manufacturers said that although it is unclear if fish oils give healthy children an extra boost, they play an essential role in the development of brain and body. With few children eating the recommended two weekly portions of fish, supplements can help youngsters reach their potential, they say.

Dr Carrie Ruxton, a dietician, warned against a message that encouraged parents to throw fish oil supplements in the bin. ‘Parents need to know there is an option if they can’t get their children to eat fish,’ she said.


British Boy, two, left in tears as nursery staff confiscate his 'unhealthy' cheese sandwich

Disgusting fanatics -- particularly since the "benefits" of eating fruit and veg. have recently been scientifically disproved. But ideology trumps science every time

When little Jack Ormisher opened his packed lunch, he was delighted to find inside a cheese sandwich his mummy had made for him. But before he could tuck into the meal, staff at the nursery he attended snatched it away - leaving him in tears.

Apparently, the sandwich broke their 'healthy eating' rules. Instead, the two-year-old was offered fruit and vegetables.

Later when Jack's father arrived to pick him up from the Westfield Children's Centre in Pemberton, near Wigan, staff told him that if his son wanted sandwiches in future they must include lettuce or tomato.

Jack's mother, Dorothy Gallear, 32, was so incensed she has now enrolled him at a different nursery. 'I think it is absolutely pathetic and these people are playing Big Brother with people's lives,' she said yesterday. 'The attitude of the nursery was ridiculous. They were looking down their noses at me.

'When I told people at his new nursery what had happened all over a cheese sandwich some laughed with shock and others were horrified.'

Mother-of-two Miss Gallear said Jack started at Westfield in September last year, spending three afternoons a week there but she decided to make him his own sandwiches after he developed several stomach bugs. 'He was having what they prepared for him to eat.

'It was fruit mostly so I decided that I would prepare something for him at home to take in so I knew exactly what he was eating.

'This was the first time I'd sent in my food. They said it was fine as long as it was a healthy snack. He did have some veg and a piece of melon in his box. 'But my partner went to pick him up and they told him that if we were going to bring sandwiches in it had to have at least a piece of lettuce on it.'

The nursery's list of acceptable 'healthy options' includes various fruit and vegetables plus rice, pasta and potatoes.

A spokesman for Wigan Council, which runs the nursery, said: 'The centre has a list of recommended healthy food, according to national guidelines, which children are encouraged to eat. 'A cheese sandwich would not feature on the list.'

Miss Gallear and her partner, Harry Ormisher, transferred Jack to a nursery in nearby Orrell.

Westfield's manager, Aukje Clegg, said: 'The decision to remove the child from the centre was taken by the parents. 'We have informed them that a place is still available for their child at Westfield should they reconsider.'


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