Do you have bad handwriting?
Find it hard to concentrate?
Or have trouble reading?
Amazingly, one doctor believes that taking fish-oil supplements could improve all this...
But the very act of collecting survey data came to jeopardise her trial results.
The Durham Trial
In 2003, British doctor Madeleine Portwood wanted to find out whether taking fish oil supplements, would improve children's learning ability.
Fish oil is rich in the fatty acid omega-3, which has long been positively associated with brain function and behaviour.
300 children's reading, writing and concentration levels were assessed.
150 of them were given fish oil supplements.
The other 150 were given a fishy-tasting placebo.
The children were given the supplements for a month and were then re-assessed.
Dr Madeleine Portwood – "If you think what you were like before you started taking the capsules, what were you doing in school?"
Matthew – "Well, I wasn't getting much work finished."
"And is that any different now?"
"So you like doing the work?"
"... I just wanna get it all finished."
Dr Madeleine Portwood Educational Psychologist – "Before the trial started, Matthew described himself as a child who had problems concentrating, didn't finish his work and was generally in trouble most of the time, and that was in school and at home. And since he's been taking the supplements he describes himself as being very different. He's able to finish work, his concentration has improved, his attention to detail is greater."
So did fish oil supplements provide the magic answer Dr Portwood had hoped for?
The survey results indicated that 40% of the children taking the supplements showed improvement.
But could the very fact that the children were being studied have meant the results were biased?
Without knowing it, the children might have skewed the results of the trial.
They could be trying harder to please the examiner.
Or they could simply have exaggerated the impact they feel the supplements had.
The fundamental issue is that the simple process of even observing behaviour could have a dramatic effect on the results.
This is why a study will often test a placebo.
In the case of the Durham trial, the 150 children taking the placebo showed almost no improvement, despite being observed.
This indicates that Dr Portwood's 40% success rate was significant.
But any link between diet and brain function is likely to be highly complex.
Many more studies would be needed to prove that fish oil has any conclusive effects.