THE world's largest scientific trial to see if food supplements can improve children's learning ability is under way in the North-East.

The study involves giving six daily capsules of concentrated fish and plant oil to 270 Middlesbrough children.

On Thursday, the results of the trial - more than twice the size of a groundbreaking Durham school study three years ago - will be announced on BBC 2's Horizon programme.

It is expected to confirm that daily doses of fish and plant oil containing essential Omega 3 fatty acids can boost concentration and improve the behaviour of mainstream pupils and children with learning problems.

The trial confirms the North-East as the international leader in this field.

The Durham Trial, as it is known internationally among nutritional experts, indicated that supplements containing Omega 3 fatty acids could help six to 12-year-olds who had learning problems with their school work and general concentration.

If the results of the Middlesbrough experiment are as good as they promise to be, it will strengthen the hand of experts such as Durham educational psychologist Dr Madelaine Portwood.

She believes that food supplements containing very pure fish oil and evening primrose oil could be a vital tool in improving learning and behaviour in children.

She argues that modern diets, largely consisting of processed foods containing additives, mean many children are lacking essential nutrients that can help stimulate their brains.

Unlike the Durham trial, which involved 120 junior school children with recognised learning difficulties such as dyslexia, dyspraxia and hyperactivity, the Middlesbrough trial involves mainstream pupils.

The experiment, which has been going on for the past six months, involves eight primary schools from different parts of Middlesbrough and children from different social and ethnic backgrounds.

While the full results are not known, some headteachers and parents are convinced that there has been a remarkable change in pupils.

Twenty-seven children at St Bernadette's Roman Catholic Primary School, in Nunthorpe, are taking part in the trial.

Headteacher Mary Cobbold said: "Some children are more alert, their concentration span has improved and they are not as fidgety."

Seven-year-old Harry Murphy, from Nunthorpe, is one of the children who will feature in the Horizon programme.

His mother, Angela Duffy, said: "I have noticed a real difference in Harry.

"His learning ability, especially reading and writing, improved quite significantly over a short period of time.

"His behaviour is a lot easier to control.

"I would recommend that parents should give it a try."

Harry agrees: "I think the capsules have made me listen more and think more."

However, there is a downside.

"If you keep them in your mouth too long or bite into them, they taste yucky," he said.

* The Horizon programme, called Can Fish Make My Child Smart?, will be shown on BBC2 on Thursday, at 9pm.