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Omega-3 fatty acids improve symptoms in children and adolescents with ADHD

Posted on 28/07/2017
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Researchers at King’s College London’s Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience (IoPPN) have found that fish oil supplements - omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) - improve inattention, hyperactivity and the other behavioural and cognitive symptoms in children and adolescents with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). 

Published in Neuropsychopharmacology, the study also found that children and adolescents with ADHD have lower levels of the endogenous omega-3 PUFAs, docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), when compared to typically developing youth.  The research offers new evidence in support of nutritional intervention in ADHD.

Dr Jane Chang, first author and a Clinical Researcher from Taiwan who is conducting her PhD at King’s IoPPN , said: ‘If left untreated, ADHD can have a negative impact for children and their families. One out of five children worldwide suffer from ADHD, and approximately a third do not respond well, or have poor tolerance to the side effects, to pharmacological treatments. Our study demonstrates that omega-3 PUFAs supplementation monotherapy improves clinical symptoms and cognitive performance in children and adolescents with ADHD, and that these youth have a deficiency in endogeneous omega-3 PUFAs. The study findings provide further support for using omega-3 PUFAs as a treatment option for ADHD, and for improving mental health in general.’

Professor Carmine Pariante, senior author and the head of SPILab at King’s IoPPN, said: ‘We are all becoming progressively more aware of the enormous importance of diet and nutrition in improving mental health, such as with omega-3 supplementation for ADHD or depression. With their anti-inflammatory and neuroprotective action, omega-3 also provide a tool to discover novel mechanisms for the psychotropic drugs of the future.’

The study comprised a meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials and an analysis of studies that measured omega-3 PUFAs levels in the blood or saliva of children and adolescents with ADHD.

Paper reference: Chang, J et al (2017) Omega-3 Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids in Youths with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD): A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Clinical Trials and Biological Studies Neuropsychopharmacology

For further information please contact Louise Pratt Public Relations and Communications Manager Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience King's College London Tel: +44 20 7848 5378/+44 7850 919020 Email: louise.a.pratt@kcl.ac.uk

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