It’s been said that teenagers are like toddlers, only bigger. They experience wild mood swings, they have poor impulse control, and they don’t want anyone telling them what to do. All of these factors can lead them to misbehave – and drive their parents crazy. So if you’re the mother or father of an unruly teen, it may give you hope to know that a new study found fish oil supplements support healthy behavior in adolescents.*
Published in the January issue of the British Journal of Nutrition, the study enrolled 196 healthy teens aged 13-16 years old and divided them into two groups: active and placebo. Those in the active group received nutritional supplements of vitamins, minerals, and fish oil (providing 165 mg of EPA and 116 mg of DHA per day), while those in the placebo group got sugar pills. The study was double-blind, which means neither the researchers nor the participants knew who was getting which pills.
At the start of the study, blood samples showed that, as a whole, the teens were low in omega-3 fatty acids. In fact, omega-3 levels were about half the amount they should be: just 4% of total fats in the body, compared to the ideal level of 8%.
After 12 weeks of supplementation, not only had the teens’ blood levels of omega-3 increased significantly, but the incidence of disruptive behavior also declined.* What was especially telling was that this improvement occurred, even though the teens’ omega-3 levels never reached that haloed 8%. The researchers speculated that were the study to use higher amounts, or last longer, the results may have been even more dramatic.
What’s the connection between omega-3s and behavior? As the study notes, “Although all nutrients are important, omega-3 are particularly so, especially when the brain is experiencing rapid growth during puberty and is at its most sensitive to insufficient supply.”*
So if you’ve got a teenager who has trouble with self regulation, a more peaceful home and school life could be a fish oil supplement away.*
Tammam JD, et al. Br J Nutr. 2016 Jan;115(2):361-73.
* This statement has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration