Tuesday, November 25, 2014

25/11/2014: Omega-3 and children's hearing

A scientist at the University of Oxford believes hearing is the key to dyslexia – and that a diet rich in omega-3 could help tackle children’s reading difficulties.


The idea that our health may be determined in part by decisions made before we were born is an uncomfortable and controversial one. Yet vast amounts of data in the field of epigenetics is showing just that. And while “we are what we eat” is a cliché it may be the case that diet is related to dyslexia.

We now know there is a strong genetic contribution to dyslexia – but genes do not provide the full story. Dyslexia’s genetic landscape is comparable to that of schizophrenia: studies have found particular chromosome sites that appear to be strongly implicated in certain families. In the overall population, a series of genes called alleles have their own (weak) individual effect.

Being born with the alleles associated with dyslexia does not necessarily mean you will develop it as a child: 50 per cent of people who possess this particular genetic makeup have no difficulties reading. It merely indicates a certain vulnerability to the disorder. Instead, the difference between those who become dyslexic and those who don’t may rest on environmental factors before and after birth.

This is because alleles can be switched on or off by a biochemical process known as DNA methylation, which in turn depends on the balance of certain chemical agents in our bodies. Some believe this is controlled by diet in the early years of life and, most crucially, the diet of the mother before and during pregnancy. Gene-related defects that occur early on in development are often a consequence of which genes remain active and which do not.

The predominant theory of dyslexia has long been to class it as a “phonological processing problem”. While some dyslexic people experience visual issues, such as problems controlling eye movement, in other cases sustained difficulties in learning to read have been put down to problems with phonics – being able to split words into their constituent sounds and match them with the letters.

Scientists including professor John Stein at the University of Oxford have long been intrigued by the underlying neurological reasons behind these problems. Stein believes the answers lie with hearing. “In order to do phonics correctly, you’ve got to hear the order of sounds in the word very clearly,” he explains. “Many dyslexics hear the sounds, but they can’t get them in the right sequence because their auditory nerve cells are not working fast enough, and we think this is because of a lack of certain omega-3 fatty acids."

Source: David Cox, The Guardian

Read more HERE.

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