Learning-disabled children with symptoms of dyslexia and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) may behave better and find it easier to think when their diets are supplemented with fatty acid, British researchers report in the February issue of the journal Progress in Neuro-Psychopharmacology & Biological Psychiatry.
The findings were derived from a three-month clinical trial conducted by Alexandra Richardson and Basant Puri, research faculty members at Oxford University and Imperial College School of Medicine in London. The pilot study was conducted with 41 boys and girls, ages 8-12.
Dr. Richardson informed the Washington, D.C. - based Dietary Supplement Information Bureau (DSIB) that the supplement used in the trial was made up of fatty acids from different natural sources (EPA and DHA derived from fish oil, and GLA and linoleic acid, derived from evening primrose oil.)
Dr. Jerry Cott, Ph.D., a Scientific Advisory Board Member of the DSIB, says "Approximately 4% of children are affected by ADHD, one of the most common mental disorders in children and adolescents, and an estimated 6.8% of children may have dyslexia. Reducing the symptoms without the side effects of prescriptions medications would be spectacular news for many current sufferers and could encourage a large number of children, as well as adults, now going untreated to seek relief for their symptoms." Dr. Cott is a specialist in clinical and preclinical psychotherapeutic drug development.
Dr. Richardson said, "Abundant evidence points to the importance of specific fatty acids in brain development and function. These fatty acids are often underconsumed or underproduced in children with behavioral and learning challenges." She continued, "Although our study did not employ the typical diagnostic measures for ADHD, all of the children experienced some difficulties of this kind in addition to their ready and writing difficulties, and were enrolled at a special learning school.
"Our study reinforces the assertion that in some children, learning difficulties and ADHD-related symptoms are responsive to dietary supplements providing the appropriate fatty acids," said Dr. Richardson. "A variety of symptoms characteristic of ADHD improved in the children receiving the fatty acid mixture compared to an olive oil placebo, without any apparent side effects."
Dr. Richardson also told the DSIB that a questionnaire widely used to assess responses to drugs like Ritalin and Adderall was given to each child's parents to assess changes in behavior and mental performance. This included measures of inattention, restlessness-impulsiveness, anxiousness-shyness, and cognitive problems. After three months of daily use, notable improvements were observed in most of the scores among the children receiving the special fatty acid mixture.
The study was sponsored by the Dyslexia Research Trust (www.dyslexic.org.uk), an Oxford-based charity dedicated to uncovering the biological basis of dyslexia and related conditions in order to develop better methods of identification and management.
The Dietary Supplement Information Bureau is a national non-profit organization created to provide accurate information about vitamins, minerals, herbs and supplements for consumers and for the professional healthcare community. The DSIB Scientific Advisory Board oversees the development and dissemination of all information in cooperation with IMAGINutrition, Inc., a nutrition technology innovation and research organization which collaborates with academic research centers on clinical trials using dietary supplements. For more information, see the DSIB Web site at www.supplementinfo.org.