This article reports on the results of a well-controlled study showing that supplementation with essential fatty acids (EFAs) improves the reading, spelling, and behavior of children with dyspraxia (developmental coordination disorder or DCD).
Dyspraxia (DCD) is a disorder in which children have difficulty making normal movements. Children with DCD also have difficulty with learning, social interaction, and appropriate behavior. Children with autism are more likely than those in the general population to have DCD. It is already known that deficiencies in EFAs can produce problems in attention and behavior; this article tested whether supplementation with EFAs could improve the symptoms of children with DCD (ages 5-12). Children were randomly divided into two groups: 55 received EFA supplements, and 55 received placebo for three months. EFA supplements consisted of a daily dose of 80% fish oil and 20% evening primrose oil. This supplementation resulted in doses of 558 mg EPA and 174 mg DHA (both omega-3 fatty acids), as well as 60 mg alpha-linoleic acid (an omega-6 fatty acid), and 9.6 mg vitamin E (alpha-tocopherol). Each child's motor skills, reading, spelling, and behavior were rated by people who were blind to whether the child was receiving EFAs or placebo. There were no significant improvements in the motor skills of children receiving EFA treatment, but the reading, spelling, and behavior of these children did improve by the end of the three months as compared to children who had been receiving placebo. After the three-month period, children who had been receiving placebo began the same EFA supplementation treatment, and similar improvements were then seen in these children.