Researchers from UniSA’s Nutritional Physiology Research Centre will give the “good oil” on omega-3 and mental health across the lifespan at an Omega-3 Centre seminar in Sydney today and at the Nutrition Society of Australia’s Annual Scientific Meeting in Newcastle from Wednesday to Friday.
Post doctoral research fellow Dr Natalie Sinn will speak at both events on her research into omega-3s and childhood learning and behaviour.
In an ARC Linkage funded project being run in Adelaide and Brisbane (with Queensland University of Technology), Dr Sinn has found increased omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids may improve Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) symptoms and literacy.
“Omega-3 fatty acids in fish oil are highly concentrated in the brain– hence the interest in omega-3s and mental health,” Dr Sinn says.
“We’re finding that increases in levels of docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) are associated with better word reading and attention, improvements in oppositional behaviour, and lower levels of anxiety and shyness.
“Our study also supports previous work which indicates children with ADHD and learning difficulties are the ones who may derive the most benefits from omega-3s.”
At the Nutrition Society of Australia meeting, PhD candidate Catherine Milte will look at the benefits of fish oil from the other end of the life spectrum, presenting on her research into Alzheimer’s Disease and mild cognitive impairment in the elderly. She is investigating the benefits of omega-3 for cognition and memory with ageing.
“Our data is supporting previous work relating omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids intake to dementia, including that low blood levels of omega-3 and depression may predict memory problems” she said.
Dr Sinn said there was an increasing awareness of the importance of omega-3 for optimal brain development and function, with researchers around the world exploring the effects of fish oil on mental health across the lifespan, from developmental disorders in childhood to depression, aggression and schizophrenia in adulthood, and cognitive decline, dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease in older people.
UniSA’s Nutritional Physiology Research Centre will be well-represented at the Nutrition Society of Australia meeting. In addition to Dr Sinn and Ms Milte, also presenting on fish oil related research will be centre staff members Associate Professor Jon Buckley on obesity and Dr Alison Coates on body composition, as well as students Dorota Zarnowiecki, Rebecca Thompson and Rachel Wong.