June 26, 2006 / 38 Comments
Look Who’s Talking Now: Fish oil capsules help children with speech disorders find their voices
A simple fish oil supplement may be the key to dramatically unlock the voices of children with speech and language disorders.
That’s the conclusion of a group of scientists who reviewed a study of nineteen youngsters suffering from various speech problems. The children, ranging in age from two years to eight years, were given a fish oil supplement containing a mixture of omega-3 and omega-6 essential fatty acids (EFAs). Speech-language pathologists who monitored the children reported significant improvements within just a few weeks. The improvements were noted not only in the children’s ability to talk, but also in their behavior, ability to focus, and in maintaining eye contact.
Now the scientists, brought together by the Cherab Foundation, a major nonprofit group for children with speech disorders, are calling for a large-scale clinical trial to validate these initial findings.
“The results were dramatic,” says developmental pediatrician Marilyn C. Agin, M.D., medical director of the New Jersey-based foundation, who also reported similar results in ten anecdotal cases. “They strongly suggest that EFA supplementation combined with speech and occupational therapy could become the treatment of choice in multifaceted communication disorders.”
Until now children with severe speech disorders such as apraxia, a neurologically-based condition, have required years of intensive one-on-one therapy-often with painfully slow progress. “But now, with EFA supplementation, the future for these children may be much brighter-and sooner rather than later,” says Lori L. Roth, M.S., CCC/SLP, a speech pathologist with the Cherab Foundation.
The amazing potential of EFA supplementation came to light when the nonprofit group’s president, Lisa Geng, used it with her three-year-old son, Tanner. After just three weeks his vocabulary exploded. “It was the breakthrough we had been praying for. It was incredible,” says Lisa.
Why does this supplementation work? The experts believe that the speech disorders are the result of a breakdown in communication between the brain and the muscles in the mouth, tongue and jaw that have to work together to produce speech. Essential fatty acids, especially the omega-3 DHA and the omega-6 fatty ARA, are highly necessary for brain development. Most children obtain them-during the most critical times of brain development-directly from their mothers while they are still in the womb and subsequently while being breast-fed. Any deficiency can result in permanent neurodevelopmental deficits in the growing infant.
“Therefore, essential fatty acid supplementation in neurodevelopmental speech disorders could correct a specific deficit in the speech center of the central nervous system,” says Robert Katz, Ph.D., Cherab’s director of EFA research.
The panel of experts who reviewed the study included scientists from the NIH, Johns Hopkins University, Kennedy Krieger Institute, University of Kansas, and Oxford University, England. They join a growing group of researchers who are heralding the benefits of essential fatty acid supplementation for a wide range of brain-related problems including depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, dyslexia, and even Alzheimer’s disease and autism.
(the following open label study was initiated due to one of our parents Nancy Goodman – I’ve shared many times the importance not in theory but in reality for the small amount of GLA which has very strong anti inflammatory properties which may enable the DHA and EPA to cross the blood brain barrier and get through the very small blood vessels of the brain)