Omegas may help kids with ADHD focus

More research suggests omega-3s help kids with ADHD.

A new study offers more evidence that omega-3 fatty acids may help improve symptoms of Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). The behavior of the boys in the study changed significantly after supplementation with omega-3s, according to the research, which appeared in the journal Neuropsychopharmacology.

Five percent of American children have ADHD, according to the American Psychiatric Association, though other studies have indicated a higher and growing prevalence of the condition. Boys are twice as likely as girls to be diagnosed. About two-thirds of kids diagnosed receive prescriptions for stimulants, like Adderall or Ritalin, which can help, but can also lead to addiction, anxiety and occasionally psychosis, according to a New York Times story about concerns among the medical community about over-diagnosis and overmedication.

For the new double blind, placebo-controlled study, researchers gave 40 boys ages 8 to 14 who were diagnosed with ADHD either 10 grams of omega-enriched margarine (650 mg DHA, 650 mg EPA) or a placebo, daily, in addition to their medication. A group of 39 boys without ADHD was used as a control group. The study lasted 16 weeks. Researchers conducted MRIs on the boys’ brains, and parents reported on child behavior.

The children with ADHD taking the omega-3 supps saw a 15.4 percent decrease in their symptoms, according to the parent-rated child behavior questionnaires. The MRIs revealed no difference in brain activity.

The researchers wrote that exactly how the omega-3s helped remains unclear, but they posit that the compounds play an important role in cell membrane health. They concluded that “dietary supplementation with omega-3 fatty acids reduces symptoms of ADHD, both for individuals with ADHD and typically developing children” and that the “study offers support that omega-3 supplementation may be an effective augmentation for pharmacological treatments of ADHD.”

The research was noted by Greg Arnold on

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