Dietary supplements may counteract aggression in children
Several studies show that nutritional supplements may help against aggressive behavior in children. Based on this knowledge, American researchers have tested the effect of combining supplements of fish oil, vitamins, and minerals with psychological treatment - and it appears to improve the outcome.
All children are sensitive, and aggression may be a part of their natural behavior when they feel threatened, ignored, or frustrated. Some children, however, are so aggressive that it interferes with normal standards, and this may typically be expressed in the family, in the kindergarten, or in school. Without proper intervention, the conflicts may escalate as the child grows older. Later on, the young person may experience trouble in school or, in worse case, he or she may engage in criminal acts and drug abuse. It is therefore vital to address the problem as early as possible.
Because it is commonly known that many children eat unhealthy diets it is rather obvious to combine cognitive therapy with nutritional supplementation in order to ensure that the brain and nervous system get the nutrients they need. Also, it is vital to have stable blood sugar levels, which ensure a constant energy supply to the brain and nervous system.
Positive results with three-month supplementation
The recent study included 290 children in the ages 11-12 years, all of whom had aggressive behavior. The children were randomly divided into four groups. One group got nutritional supplements. One group received cognitive therapy only. One group received supplements and therapy. And one group served as a control group. The children in the two supplemented groups got 1,000 mg of omega-3 fatty acids from liquid fish oil, which contained 300 mg of DHA, 200 mg of EPA, 400 mg of ALA (alpha-linolenic acid), and 100 mg of DPA (docosapentaenoic acid). In addition, the children in the supplemented groups were given two chewing tablets daily. One tablet contained 12 vitamins and 7 minerals, while the other tablet contained 600 mg of calcium and 10 micrograms of vitamin D. The children took the supplements only took the supplements for three months even though the study continued.
At baseline, the children and their parents made a note of the children's aggressive and violent behavior. The procedure was repeated after three months of supplementation and again three and six months after discontinuing the use of supplements.
The reports showed fewer behavioral problems and less aggression among those children who had taken supplements, compared with the group that only received cognitive therapy and the control group. Nutritional supplementation appeared to be particularly effective against impulsive aggressive behavior.
It pays off to continue with the supplements
Three months after the ended treatment, the group that had received a combination of supplements and cognitive therapy still had better behavior than both the group that had been given therapy alone and the control group. Six months after ended treatment there was no difference between the groups.
The study supports fish oil, vitamins, and minerals as an alternative to traditional psychological treatment of aggressive children and is ideal to combine with therapy. Also, it may be beneficial to continue supplementing children who have behavioral problems to maintain the effect of the nutritional intervention. The researchers call for further studies of the relation between diet and behavior.
Also important with stable blood sugar
Similarly, it is relevant to look at the children's blood sugar levels, as it is important that the brain and nervous system are constantly supplied with energy. As it turns out, many children do not eat breakfast or lunch, or their meals are that deprived of calories and nutrients that they "bonk" because of low blood sugar levels, which makes it difficult for them to concentrate at school and even to control their temper. The easy way to correct this temporary imbalance is to provide them with some quick carbohydrates, but in the long run it is better to make sure that the child gets solid, nutritious main meals that contain enough fat and protein to prevent hunger before the next meal.
Symptoms of low blood sugar may include:
- Irritability and a tendency to become aggressive
- Poor concentration
- Unrest and palpitations
- Sugar craving
Raine A et al. Nutritional supplementation to reduce child aggression: a randomized, stratified, single-blind, factorial trial. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry 2016; 57:1038-46
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