Elliot is nine years old. A year ago, he was falling behind in his schoolwork, particularly reading – which he found a struggle. He had little interest in studying and would crash on the sofa to watch TV when he got home from school.
But over the past year, a dramatic change has taken place in Elliot. He has soared through the Harry Potter books and now heads to the library after the school bell has sounded.
Elliot has been taking part in a scientific study on more than 100 children from 12 Durham schools. The children were required to take a course of capsules with their meals for the duration of six months.
“His reading jumped 18 months [over the trial period]. He’s just a lot more interested in everything. He’s even developed an interest in classical music,” says Sheila, Elliot’s mother.
Over the course of the year, Elliot’s academic problems disappeared.
Mark, 10, who is in the year above Elliot at Timothy Hackworth School in Shildon, Durham, experienced similar changes.
“When I first heard about it, I didn’t think Mark had any problems. He’d only been taking them a few weeks when I started to notice changes. His handwriting became better and his teachers said he was joining in more in class discussions,” says Mark’s mother Christine.
“At home, he started asking loads of questions. It was quite hard work for me.”
The capsules given to children in the trial contained oils high in Omega 3 fats, which are found naturally in oily fish such as mackerel, salmon and sardines and in some plant crops such as rape seed.
Omega 3s and another group called Omega 6s belong to a family of fats known as essential fatty acids. The right balance of these two types of fatty acids is important for the healthy functioning of many parts of the body.