Updates: Omega 3 Fatty Acids and ADHD

Attention-deficit/hyperactivity (ADHD) disorder is one of the most prevalent developmental childhood disorders with a world wide prevalence rate of 5.29 percent. It is characterised by the inability to concentrate over a long period of time, to pay attention to tasks and to control impulsive and hyperactive behaviour. Despite convincing evidence for the efficacy of pharmacologic interventions (e.g. Adderall, Concerta, Ritalin and Vyvanse), on ADHD symptom reduction, there is continued interest in additional evidence based treatment procedures.

Interestingly, not all children experience a symptom reduction by pharmacologic treatment with the foregoing medications, that is Adderall, Concerta, Ritalin and Vyvanse. However, it is important to appreciate that the response rate from medications that include methylpenidate, such as, Ritalin and Concerta, stands at 65 to 70 percent. Although the response rate to methylpenidate is high, supplementation with omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids may be an option for non-responders or treatment resistant children. Moreover, researchers have suggested that omega 3 fatty acids could be an alternative for families concerned about adverse effects caused by stimulant medication (methylpenidate) such as loss of appetite, stunted growth, increased blood pressure and heart rate.

In a recent study (2014) conducted at the University Hospital Ulm, Germany, researchers investigated the effect of supplementation with EPA/DHA on erythrocyte membrane fatty acid composition (NB: best reference for determining essential fatty acid status), and cognition in children diagnosed with ADHD (Ages 6-12) according to DSM-IV criteria. The researchers noted the following:

(i) Supplementation with EPA/DHA lead to a significant increase of several omega-3 fatty

acids including EPA/DHA (of course :)), and decreased levels of omega-6 fatty acids

including arachidonic acid in erythrocyte membranes. This is important, given the

current imbalance between omega 3 and omega 6 in the standard Western diet. Omega

6 fatty acids feature more heavily in Western cuisine.

(ii) Controls groups utilising olive oil instead of EPA/DHA, failed to show any significant

change to fatty acid levels. This is a significant point, allowing one to appreciate the

importance of adequate amounts of EPA/DHA in our diet, and that quality fats

including olive oil, cannot significantly impact essential fatty acid profiles to the degree

that EPA/DHA can.

(iii)  EPA/DHA, at a dosage of 600 mg EPA and 120 mg DHA, lead to a significant

improvement of working memory function (examples of working memory can include

mental arithmetic, remembering a new telephone number, following spoken

directions e.g. Go over to the left hand corner and complete task A, measuring and

combining correct amounts of ingredients) when comparing the EPA/DHA group

with the placebo taking group (children diagnosed with ADHD using olive oil).

(iv) No significant intervention effect was found for speed of information processing.

Moreover, the measures for inhibition, sustained attention, divided attention,

flexibility and distractibility were not affected by supplementation with EPA/DHA at

the aforementioned dosages. Whereas DHA supplementation at 550 mg has shown a

significant improvement in sustained attention, when low levels of DHA are

determined by erythrocyte fatty acid profile assessment.

If you have any question relating to this post please make contact:

Newcastle Naturopath, Mark Hinchey Naturopathy, 601 Glebe Road Adamstown

P:(02) 04235959

M: 0432234822

E: info@markhincheynaturopathy.com.au


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