It's not overly scientific, and the sample is small, but early results are in on New Zealand's first classroom-based experiment on the benefits of omega 3.
And those initial results are good, Wellsford School principal Paul Whitaker said yesterday. Mr Whitaker came up with the idea of giving some of his students omega 3 after watching a BBC documentary that involved a similar experiment.
He contacted North Shore-based natural health products company Good Health, who agreed to supply the school with omega 3 tablets, and began the experiment on September 10.
Twenty-one of the school's students, aged between 11 and 13, took omega 3 tablets once a day for the first month, and are continuing to take them twice a day for the following two months.
Another student group of the same size and roughly the same demographic makeup are serving as the control group - not taking the tablets but engaging in the same lessons.
The two groups are to be tested on a range of disciplines, undergoing a series of basic timed addition, subtraction, division and multiplication tests. They will also sit nationally approved spelling and reading tests.
The first of the tests, focused on writing, was completed yesterday.
The control group's writing had stayed at the level it should have. But the children taking omega 3 had shown a definite improvement in writing and general focus, Mr Whitaker said.
That followed his expectations that the children taking omega 3 would have higher motivation, more concentration and improved overall basic skills.
Mr Whitaker said the students were excited about the trial, and the school had the full support of the children's parents.
Good Health chief executive Paul O'Brien said he hoped the trial would prompt more formal trials in New Zealand to test if omega 3 did genuinely improve the wellbeing of children.
Results suggested it did, he said.
"Ironically, omega 3 was routinely dispensed years ago in the form of the dreaded teaspoon of cod liver oil."
CHEWING THE FAT
* Omega 3 is an unsaturated fatty acid.
* It's commonly found in oily fish including salmon, anchovies and sardines.
* Vegetable sources include pumpkin seeds, flax seeds, and walnuts.
* Studies suggest a diet rich in omega 3 can reduce the risk of heart disease.
* It may also cut the risk of prostate and skin cancer and improve behaviour in antisocial teenagers.
* Omega 3 has "qualified health claim" status with the US Food and Drug Administration.