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