Omega-3 Fatty Acids in ADHD
Dr Shelley Hyman
Omega-3 Fatty acids which are important to human metabolism are found in plant and animal oils such as fish oil, egg oil, squid oil, clary sage seed oil, algal oil, walnuts and edible seeds. Although 70% of children with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) respond to psychostimulant medication, many families elect against using these traditional pharmacotherapies in treating the symptoms of ADHD, due to concerns of possible short-term side effects or doubts about long-term effects on development by these medications.
An alternative treatment for ADHD includes Omega-3 fatty acid supplementation. It has been hypothesized that increased Omega-3 in the diet may help the symptoms of ADHD by increasing the cell membrane fluidity in the Central Nervous system. There are several studies which have demonstrated that compared to controls, ADHD patients have differences in Omega-3 fatty acid composition in plasma.
An overall review of the research reveals that of 10 trials involving 699 participants, there was a small significant benefit of Omega-3 fatty acid supplementation for treating the symptoms ADHD.
These results were significant for both inattentive and hyperactivity subtypes. Although the efficacy of Omega-3 supplements is small, it is still significant, and may be used to enhance traditional pharmacological interventions, or used by families who decline psychopharmacological options, as the Omega-3 supplement strategy has relatively little side-effects.
- Bloch, M. H., & Qawasmi, A. (2011). Omega-3 fatty acid supplementation for the treatment of children with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder symptomatology: systematic review and meta-analysis. Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, 50(10), 991-1000.
- Johnson, M., Östlund, S., Fransson, G., Kadesjö, B., & Gillberg, C. (2008). Omega-3/omega-6 fatty acids for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder: a randomized placebo-controlled trial in children and adolescents. Journal of attention disorders.
- Sinn, N., & Bryan, J. (2007). Effect of supplementation with polyunsaturated fatty acids and micro-nutrients on learning and behavior problems associated with child ADHD. Journal of Developmental & Behavioral Pediatrics, 28(2), 82-91.