Study links omega-3 deficiency with increase in aggression

A new study from the University of Pennsylvania suggests that insufficient omega-3 intake in children and adults can lead to higher levels of aggression.

The researchers studied 4,000 participants over 28 years and discovered a clear reduction in aggression when subjects were given either omega-3 supplements or ate more fish.

Along with other research backing the results – one study in UK prisons found that giving omega-3 supplements to inmates reduced violent offences by over a third compared to placebo – the finding has spurred a call for testing and supplementation in those with aggressive behaviour.

Study authors Adrian Raine and Lia Brodrick comment: “Based on this evidence our considered opinion is that there is now sufficient evidence to begin to implement omega-3 supplementation to reduce aggression in children and adults, whether the setting is community, the clinic or the criminal justice system.”


Dr Simon Dyall, nutritional neuroscientist at the University of Roehampton, explains that less than 5% of UK children achieve the basic recommended intake of fish and omega-3s. “Even these recommendations are too low, according to the evidence regarding brain function. Many children and young adults eat no fish at all and have no omega-3 fatty acid supplements. The evidence is more than sufficient to recommend we take action now to protect their brains.”

Patrick Holford

Adds founder, Patrick Holford (left): “In Japan, where they eat a lot of seafood, the average level is 10% on the pinprick omega-3 index, and rates of violence, depression, suicide and Alzheimer’s are a fraction of those in the UK. People in the UK and US average 4% on the pinprick omega-3 index. You need over 8% for a healthy brain. Many offenders test as low as 2%. You can’t build a healthy brain without omega-3. Our children are suffering. There is more than enough evidence of this.

“Yet there is no Government recommendation in the UK for how much omega-3 we need. The advice to eat fish twice a week in neither enough, nor heeded. That is why we are helping people help themselves by testing their omega-3 index and advising them accordingly. But we need this done on a national scale, especially in poorer communities. If doctors can test and prescribe vitamin D, why can’t they test and prescribe omega-3?”