Researchers from King’s College London and China Medical University in Taichung, Taiwan found that omega-3 fish oil supplements improve alertness in children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), but only in children with low levels of omega-3 in their blood .

The researchers say their results bring a more personalized medical approach to psychiatry by showing that omega-3 only works in some children with ADHD. Previous research by the same group found that omega-3 deficient children were more likely to have severe ADHD.

In a randomized controlled study, 92 children with ADHD between the ages of 6 and 18 were given high doses of the omega-3 fat acid EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) or a placebo for 12 weeks. The results are published in the journal Translational Psychiatry.

The researchers found that children with the lowest EPA blood levels showed improvements in alertness and alertness after taking the omega-3 supplements. However, these improvements were not seen in children with normal or high EPA blood levels. In addition, omega-3 supplements had an adverse effect on impulsivity symptoms in children with high pre-existing EPA blood levels.

The researchers warn that parents should consult health professionals before giving omega-3 supplements to their children. Omega-3 deficiency can be identified by the presence of dry and flaky skin, eczemaand dry eyes and could be confirmed by a blood test like the one in this study (although the blood test is currently only available for research purposes).

Previous studies have found inconsistent results from omega-3 supplementation on ADHD symptoms, with the overall effect sizes being relatively small. Standard treatments for parents whose children have ADHD include stimulants such as methylphenidate. The effect size of improving alertness and alertness of methylphenidate is 0.22 to 0.42. In comparison, the effect sizes in the study of omega-3 supplementation in children with low EPA blood levels were greater, with 0.89 for focused attention and 0.83 for vigilance.

Dr. Jane Chang, co-lead researcher at King’s Department of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience, said, “Our results suggest that fish oil supplements containing omega fatty acids are at least as effective as traditional pharmacological treatments in children with ADHD. 3 defect. On the other hand, it’s possible to have too much good, and parents should always turn to their children’s psychiatrists as our study suggests that there could be negative effects for some children. ‘

Professor Carmine Pariante, senior researcher at King’s Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience, said, “The omega-3 supplements only worked in children who had lower levels of EPA in their blood, as if the intervention would replenish a deficiency important nutrient. For children with omega-3 deficiency, fish oil supplements might be a preferred option over standard stimulants. Our study sets an important precedent for other nutritional interventions, and we can begin teaching children with ADHD the benefits of “personalized psychiatry”. “

The study was conducted in Taiwan, where diets are often high in fish compared to diets in Europe and North America. Most of the studies in children with ADHD, mostly done in Western countries, have shown mean EPA blood levels that are lower than the current study.

Professor Kuan-Pin Su, co-lead researcher at China Medical University in Taichung, Taiwan, said, “High levels of EPA in the blood without the use of nutritional supplements can be achieved through a good diet high in fish, which is common in some Asian countries is like Taiwan and Japan. It is possible that EPA deficiency is more common in children with ADHD in countries with lower fish consumption, such as North America and many countries in Europe, and that fish oil supplementation could therefore have more far-reaching benefits for treating the condition than in our study. ‘


“High Dose Eicosapentaenoic Acid (EPA) Improves Attention and Alertness in Children and Adolescents with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and Low Endogenous EPA Levels” by Jane Pei-Chen Chang, Kuan-Pin Su, Valeria Mondelli, Senthil Kumaran Satyanarayanan, Hui- Ting Yang, Yi-Ju Chiang, Hui-Ting Chen, and Carmine M. Pariante, November 20, 2019, Translational Psychiatry.
DOI: 10.1038 / s41398-019-0633-0

“Omega-3 Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids in Adolescents with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Clinical and Biological Studies,” by Jane Pei-Chen Chang, Kuan-Pin Su, Valeria Mondelli, and Carmine M Pariante, July 25, 2017 Neuropsychopharmacology .
DOI: 10.1038 / npp.2017.160


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