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Omega-3 Fish Oil as Effective for Attention and ADHD for Some Children



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Researchers at King's College University in London and Chinese Medical University in Taihung, Taiwan, have found that fish oil supplements contain improved attention in children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), but only in those with low levels of omega- 3 in their blood.

Researchers say their results bring an approach to personalized medicine to psychiatry, showing that omega-3 works only for some children with ADHD. Previous research from the same group found that children with omega-3 deficiency were more likely to have severe ADHD.

In a randomized controlled trial, 92 children with ADHD aged 6-18 years were given high doses of omega-3 fatty acid EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) or placebo for 12 weeks. The results are published in the journal Translation psychiatry.

Researchers found that children with the lowest EPA levels in the blood showed improvements in focused attention and vigilance after taking omega-3 supplements, but these improvements were not observed in children with normal or high blood levels in the EPA. In addition, for those children with high EPA blood levels, omega-3 supplements had adverse effects on impulsivity symptoms.

Researchers warn that parents should consult medical professionals before deciding to give their children omega-3 supplements. Omega-3 deficiency can be identified by the presence of dry and scaly skin, eczema and dry eyes and can be confirmed by a blood test as the one conducted in this study (although currently the blood test is only available for research purposes). .

Previous studies have found inconsistent findings for omega-3 supplementation in ADHD symptoms, with overall effect sizes being relatively small. Standard treatments offered to parents whose children have ADHD include stimulants such as methylphenidate. The magnitude of the effect of improved attention and vigilance on methylphenidate is 0.22-0.42. By comparison, the magnitude of the effect of the omega-3 supplementation test on those children with low blood levels in the EPA was greater, at 0.89 for focused attention and 0.83 for caution.

Dr Janeine Young, co-lead researcher at the King's Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience, said: "Our results suggest that fish oil supplements are at least as effective for attention as conventional pharmacological treatments in those children with AD that have omega-3 deficiency. On the other hand, it is possible to have too much work, and parents should always consult their children's psychiatrists, as our study suggests that it may have adverse effects for some children. "

Professor Carmine Pariante, senior researcher at the King's Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience, said: "Omega-3 supplements only work in children with lower EPA levels in the blood, as if the intervention is complementary to the deficiency of this important nutrient. . For those children with omega-3 deficiency, fish oil supplements may be the preferred option for standard stimulant treatments. Our study sets an important precedent for other dietary interventions and we can begin to reap the benefits of "personalized psychiatry" for children with ADHD. "

The study was conducted in Taiwan, where diets often contain a lot of fish compared to diets in Europe and North America. Most studies of children with ADHD, conducted mainly in western countries, show an average EPA blood level, which is lower than in the current study.

Professor Kuan-Pin Su, co-lead researcher at Chinese Medical University in Taihung, Taiwan, said: "High blood levels of EPA without the use of supplements can be achieved through a good diet with many fish, which is common in some Asian countries. such as Taiwan and Japan. It is possible that EPA deficiency is more common in children with ADHD in countries with less fish consumption, such as in North America and in many countries in Europe, and therefore supplementation with fish oil may have broader benefits for treating the condition than in our study "


Fish oil supplements have no effect on anxiety and depression


More info:
Translation psychiatry (2019). DOI: 10.1038 / s41398-019-0633-0, https://www.nature.com/articles/s41398-019-0633-0

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King's College London

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Omega-3 Fish Oil as Effective for Attention as ADHD Medications for Some Children (2019, November 19)
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