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DHA Improves Adolescent Attention: Study on Omega-3 Fatty Acids

October 20, 2022Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) — both omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids — may improve attention performance and impulsivity in healthy adolescents, according to a recent study published in European Child & Adolescent Psychiatry. 1DHA consumption was associated with selective and sustained attention and executive conflict response.Researchers examined the associations between DHA, ALA, and attention function in 332 healthy Spanish adolescents aged 11 to 16 with equal gender distribution. Using the Attention Network Test (ANT), the study found that dietary DHA played a positive role in attention performance.

Levels of DHA in red blood cells (RBC) were significantly higher in participants who consumed four or more weekly servings of fatty fish compared to lower consumption.Adolescents with higher levels of RBC DHA exhibited lower hit reaction time (HRT), lower hit reaction time-standard error (HRT-SE), and lower stimuli conflict in attention tasks compared to the lowest DHA tertile. Lower attention scores indicated greater selective, sustained, and executive attention.“Polyunsaturated fatty acids are critical for brain development and function, and their deficiency may have long-term functional consequences, such as memory impairment, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, depression, or anxiety disorders,” researchers said.

1Blood tests measured the proportion of DHA and ALA in red blood cells; computerized tests measured for attention scores; and questionnaires measured sociodemographic, clinical, and lifestyle data including consumption of fatty fish and nuts. Participants were grouped into three tertiles based on red blood cell proportions for both DHA and ALA.“Our results

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