Schools would give out fish oil tablets in the same way they once dispensed free milk, under the vision of a University of Wollongong researcher who is examining links between the lack of omega-3, aggression and attention deficit disorder.
Preliminary findings from the "Omega Man" study suggest omega-3 supplements improved mental health and decreased violent behaviour in a group of inmates from South Coast Correctional Centre in Nowra.
The four-month study involved 130 inmates and was aimed at demonstrating the need for a much larger study which, if funded, would reproduce the experiment at nine correctional centres in NSW, South Australia and Tasmania.
Lead researcher Associate Professor Barbara Meyer said that if the larger study produced the results she expected, a case could be made for including fish on the prison menu and dispensing omega-3 supplements at schools.
"Once we've shown that it does work, I'll certainly be happy to lobby the government," she said.
Inmates involved in the pilot study were given either fish oil or a placebo, always coupled with a multivitamin, so the study would be comparable to a previous UK study.
The UK study established a link between omega-3 intake and anti-social behaviour.
Part of the future challenge for UOW researchers lies in determining whether results are due to the intake of omega-3, multivitamin or a combination of the two.
In a world first, they took blood samples from inmates to measure their level of omega-3 fish oils.
The bloodwork helped to overcome one of the challenges involved in experimenting in the prison, where inmates admitted to cutting open their pills and smelling them to tell if they had been given fish oil or a placebo.
The omega-3 was valuable inside the prison for its physique-building properties, and is thought to have been sold or traded in some cases.
"We were not surprised by this," Prof Meyer said.
Researchers hope to employ a correctional services officer to supervise inmate tablet-taking if funding for a full-scale study is approved.