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Omega-3 rich diet may help beating reading difficulties in dyslexic kids

ANI  |  Washington 

A new study has revealed that a diet rich in omega-3 could help tackle children's reading difficulties.

According to the study by researchers at University of Oxford, the key to dyslexia is hearing and in order to do phonics correctly, you've got to hear the order of sounds in the word very clearly, the Guardian reported.

Professor John Stein said that many dyslexics hear the sounds, but they can't get them in the right sequence because their auditory nerve cells are not working fast enough, and we think this is because of a lack of certain omega-3 fatty acids.

One of the alleles believed to be associated with dyslexia is involved in metabolising these crucial omega-3 long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids. One of these, docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), makes up 50 percent of the membranes of nerve cells in the auditory system, known as magnocells. DHA and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) are also involved in creating the myelination around nerve cells, which allows signals to pass more quickly.

When they work properly, auditory magnocells track rapid fluctuations in sound frequency and amplitude; the subtle cues that enable you to distinguish the sequence in which sounds occur. To do this, they require their membranes to be highly flexible and able to react quickly. However, Stein believes the development of these magnocells is impaired in many dyslexic people, and that this may be the result of a lack of DHA and EPA, both of which are found in fish oil.

Current recommendations suggest we should consume around 220mg of DHA a day. Our ancestors would easily have exceeded this, with fish forming one of the main components of their diets. However, since the advent of processed ready-meals, the amount we consume has fallen drastically. Last year, the British Nutrition Foundation found that around 80% of five- to 16-year-olds in the UK eat fewer than two portions of fish a week.

The study found that it was possible to improve the reading abilities of children by giving them supplements of DHA. A larger replication study is currently underway to try to confirm this finding.

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First Published: Mon, November 03 2014. 14:09 IST