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Sep 19, 2011

Children with ADHD Benefit from Omega-3 Supplementation

A recent meta-analysis supports the use of omega-3 acids as part of treatment for children with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).  After evaluating 10 trials with nearly 700 children diagnosed with ADHD, results indicated a “small but significant” improvement in severity of symptoms in those children who received omega-3 supplementation compared with children given placebo.  Supplements containing higher doses of eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) also proved to provide beneficial effects in ADHD children.  Researchers stated that the treatment efficacy “was modest compared with currently available pharmacotherapies for ADHD, such as psychostimulants, atomoxetine, or a2 agonists" but added that the “relatively benign side-effect profile” may be a reasonable addition to conventional treat ments or even an option for those not wanting to go the psychopharmacologic treatment route.   

As essential requirements for optimal brain and nervous system function, omega-3 fatty acids also have important anti-inflammatory properties in the body.  According to researchers, past studies have revealed differences in omega-3s in both the plasma and red blood cell membranes of individuals with ADHD compared with peers without ADHD.      

In looking at results of the individual trials included in the meta-analysis, 2 trials showed significant benefit of supplementation with omega-3, 2 showed benefit only on some of the ADHD rating scales used, and the remaining 6 indicated no amount of benefit.  However, when pooling all the trial data together, the analysis revealed significant benefit in those participants using omega-3 supplementation as compared with placebo.      

This study was published in the Journal of the Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.  

Dr. Shana McQueen