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Omega 3s May Help Kids with ADHD

Omega 3 and ADHD

Omega-3 fatty acids are important for a number of functions in the body, including brain function. A new study links increased intake of fatty-acid supplements with improvements to problem behaviors found in children with Attention Deficit-Hyperactivity Disorder.


Between three to six percent of school-age children are estimated to have ADHD, a disorder that includes difficulty in controlling impulses or being attentive for more than short periods of time. ADHD is often treated with stimulant medications. Although these are effective for most, they do not work for everyone.

A new study suggests a change of diet may be helpful for some children, including an increased intake of omega-3 fatty acids. These nutrients, found in fish and certain vegetable oils, are important for a number of body functions, including muscle activity, blood clotting, digestion and cell growth. DHA, docosahexaenoic acid, in particular, is important for brain development and function.

In a study conducted by the Sahlgrenska Academy of the University of Gothenburg, 75 children and adolescents with ADHD were given either omega 3/6 fatty acid supplements or a placebo over three months. In 35 percent of those who have the “inattentive subtype of ADHD” (commonly known as just ADD), symptoms improved, says Mats Johnson, a doctoral student.

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The three principal omega-3 fatty acids are alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). ALA can be converted in small amounts into EPA and DHA in the body. The best sources of ALA are vegetable oils, including flaxseed oil, soybean oil and canola oil. EPA and DHA can be directly consumed from seafood, including fatty fish (salmon, tuna, trout) and shellfish (crab, mussels, oysters.)

Of course, omega-3’s are also readily available as a dietary supplement. According to the 2007 National Health Interview Survey, fish oil/Omega 3/DHA supplements are the most commonly consumed nonvitamin natural product taken by adults and the second most common for children.

Omega-3 fatty acid supplements usually do not have negative side effects. When side effects do occur, they typically consist of minor gastrointestinal symptoms, such as belching, indigestion, or diarrhea.

If You Are Considering Omega-3 Supplements
• Do not use omega-3 supplements to replace conventional care or to postpone seeing a health care provider about a health problem.
• If you are pregnant, trying to become pregnant, or breastfeeding; if you take medicine that affects blood clotting; if you are allergic to fish or shellfish; or if you are considering giving a child an omega-3 supplement, it is especially important to consult your (or your child's) health care provider.

University of Gothenburg. "Omega 3 can help children with ADD, experts say." ScienceDaily. 23 October 2014.
National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM)