The attention of some children with ADHD improves with omega 3 fats. The attention of some children with ADHD improves with omega 3 fats. Fish oil supplements rich in omega 3 improve attention and alertness in children with ADHD and low levels of these fatty acids in the blood, in which they could be as effective as drugs.
The clinical trial involving 92 children and adolescents between six and 18 years diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder ADHD has revealed that the intake of fish oil supplements rich in omega 3 fatty acids improves attention span in those patients who have low levels of this type of blood fats.
The research, published in Translational Psychiatry, has been conducted by scientists from King’s College London and China Medical University in Taichung (Taiwan), who administered high doses of eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) – one of the main omega 3 acids (1.2 g ), or placebo, for 12 weeks.
They found that children with lower EPA blood levels showed an improvement in focused attention and alertness after taking the supplements, but this progress was not observed in children whose EPA blood levels were normal or elevated at the start of the study. In fact, in this case, the supplements had a negative impact on impulsivity.
Effects of omega 3 on ADHD symptoms
These same researchers had found in previous studies that children with omega 3 deficits were more likely to have more severe ADHD symptoms. This deficiency can be identified by the presence of dry and flaky skin, eczema and dry eyes, and confirmed with a blood test like the one used to perform the new study.
Previous research on the effects of omega 3 supplements on ADHD symptoms conducted through 30 day recovery programs obtained inconsistent results, but the new work compared the effects of methylphenidate – a drug that stimulates the nervous system and is used in the treatment of ADHD – with the of these supplements in children with low EPA levels, and it was found that the standard effect of the medication in improving care and surveillance was 0.22-0.42, and that of the supplements was higher: 0.89 for focused care and 0.83 for surveillance.
Dr. Jane Chang, a researcher at the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience at King’s College and co-director of the work, explained that her findings suggest that fish oil supplements are so effective in improving the levels of care of patients with ADHD and Omega 3 deficit as pharmaceutical treatments, but warns parents to always consult with medical professionals before giving their children these products, since the results also suggest that they could have unwanted effects on some children .
Another fact to keep in mind is that the study was carried out in Taiwan, where diets usually include much more fish – a food rich in omega 3 – than the diet of North America or that of European countries, and when they have been made Trials in Western countries have shown that the levels of EPA in the blood of children with ADHD are lower than those found in this new study. Therefore, the researchers recommend that fish consumption be increased to improve these levels without the need to take food supplements.