‘Fish oil, others lower childhood aggression in short term’
Researchers from the University of Pennsylvania, United States (U.S.), have found that incorporating omega-3 (replete in fish oil), vitamins and mineral supplements into the diets of children with extreme aggression can reduce this problem behavior in the short term, especially its more impulsive, emotional form.
The study titled “Nutritional supplementation to reduce child aggression: a randomized, stratified, single-blind, factorial trial” was published in Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry.
Adrian Raine, the Richard Perry University Professor of Criminology, Psychology and Psychiatry, has spent his career looking at how the brain’s biological functioning affects antisocial behavior. He focuses specifically on understanding these actions and learning how to modify them, whether with something benign like a child acting out or with something extreme, in the case of a homicidal killer.
“How do you change the brain to make people better?” he asked. “How can we improve brain functioning to improve behaviour?”
These questions formed the foundation for work Raine had previously done with adolescents on the African island of Mauritius. In a randomized control trial, one group received omega-3 supplements for six months, the other didn’t. Those taking the fish oil saw a reduction in aggressive and antisocial behaviour.
“That was my starting point,” he said. “I was really excited about the results we published there.”
Mauritius, however, is a tropical climate and a different culture from the United States, so Raine, a Penn Integrates Knowledge Professor, decided to test a new version of the study in Philadelphia, to aim for more broadly applicable outcomes. He partnered with Therese Richmond, the Andrea B. Laporte Professor of Nursing and associate dean for research and innovation, and several other Penn faculty, including Rose Cheney of the Perelman School of Medicine and Jill Portnoy of the Criminology Department in the School of Arts & Sciences.