Developmental dyslexia is a complex syndrome whose exact cause remains unknown. It has been suggested that a problem with fatty acid metabolism may play a role, particularly in relation to the visual symptoms exhibited by many dyslexics. We explored this possibility using two self-report questionnaires, designed on the basis of clinical experience, to assess (1) clinical signs of fatty acid deficiency; and (2) symptoms associated with dyslexia in known dyslexic and non-dyslexic subjects. Dyslexic signs and symptoms included the auditory-linguistic and spoken language difficulties traditionally associated with the disorder, as well as visual problems (both with reading and more generally) and motor problems. Fatty acid deficiency signs were significantly elevated in dyslexic subjects relative to controls, particularly within males (P<0.001). In addition, the severity of these clinical signs of fatty acid deficiency was strongly correlated with the severity of dyslexic signs and symptoms not only in the visual domain, but also with respect to auditory, linguistic and motor problems. The pattern of relationships differed somewhat between dyslexic and control groups, and sex differences were also observed. Our findings support the hypothesis that fatty acid metabolism may be abnormal in developmental dyslexia, and indicate the need for further studies using more objective measures.
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