Fish oil brain study slammed as 'laughable'

The study carried out by a local council in Britain which found that children who took omega-3 fish oil supplements during the school year performed better in exams, has been slammed as unethical and "laughably incompetent".

The fish oil was given to pupils in Durham County Council schools and claims have been made that out of 3,000 students who took part, almost a third showed significant improvements in GCSE's.

Dr. Ben Goldacre a renowned and acknowledged medical writer says it was bad science because there was no separate study of pupils not taking fish oil and is a "laughably incompetent analysis of a laughably incompetent piece of research".

The council admits the trial was not definitive.

Dr. Goldacre says it is unethical to perform incompetent research on children in this way but while the study was poorly conducted, that did not mean there was no benefit to taking fish oil supplements.

Mr Dave Ford, from the council's children and young people's services department, carried out the initiative with the help of an educational psychologist - they apparently matched students who showed improved results to those, of similar abilities and backgrounds, who did not take the tablets.

The council admits there was no controlled study of those children who were not given supplements as part of the study, which took place in the school year ending in summer 2007.

Mr Ford however says the study has produced some interesting and possibly exciting issues that could be the basis for future scientific trials and he suggests there appeared to be clear indications that pupils taking the supplement did significantly better.

Mr Ford says the council made no claim the results of its GCSE study could be attributed to omega-3 supplements alone.

The fish oil capsules used in the study were donated by supplement manufacturer Equazen - the children who were taking the fish oil regularly were apparently found to have 17.7 points higher exam results than those students who did not take the pills.

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