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Acta Paediatr. 2009 Nov;98(11):1805-8. doi: 10.1111/j.1651-2227.2009.01434.x. Epub 2009 Jul 22.

Can early intake of dietary omega-3 predict childhood externalizing behaviour?

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Bristol Dental School, University of Bristol, Bristol, UK.



To determine whether maternal and child intake of dietary omega-3 (n-3) fatty acids (FA), together with the presence or absence of breast-feeding, predicted psychiatric diagnosis of externalizing disorders in childhood.


Data concerning childhood externalizing disorders were collected from 8242 children aged 7.9 years in a large British cohort. Intake of n-3 FA was measured for the study mother during pregnancy and for the child at 3 years. Duration of breast-feeding was examined to account for moderating effects. Adjustment was made for a variety of potential confounders.


Maternal intake of n-3 and breast-feeding predicted oppositional/conduct disorder and comorbid externalizing disorder before adjustment for confounding factors. However, there was no association between intake of n-3 by mother or child and any type of externalizing disorder once socio-demographic factors were taken into account.


Any association between intake of n-3 and childhood externalizing disorders appears to be strongly confounded with socio-demographic factors. This is important to note given the current popularity of n-3 as a possible treatment for behaviour problems related to inattention and impulsivity. Care must be taken that studies investigating this relationship account fully for factors associated with both behaviour and diet.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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