Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD):
Can Omega 3 Fish Oil Help?

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is now the shocking diagnosis for between 4-12% of North American children demonstrating hyperactivity, impulsiveness and inattention. Between 1-6% of North American adults are also diagnosed with ADHD. Total cost was $31.6 billion for the USA alone in 20002. Ritalin is a leading medication, although Canadian researchers analyzed 62 randomized trials, found no evidence that it's effective past four weeks, and found considerable evidence of its adverse effects3. Meanwhile, on Mother Nature's side of the aisle, there's growing evidence that the omega-3 essential fatty acids DHA and EPA in fish oil and krill oil may have beneficial effects on ADHD.

How Can Omega-3s Benefit ADHD?

Science is still exploring the "how" of it all, but one thing is certain: Wherever you look, researchers and scientists agree that omega-3s are vital for proper chemical functioning of the brain.

It so happens that "60% of the brain is composed of fats, the most important being polyunsaturated omega-3," says researcher Natalie Sinn at the University of South Australia. But since the body can't manufacture omega-3, we must obtain it from diet and supplementation, and it's seriously deficient in most Westerners.

Science has at least established that omega-3 EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) play a major role in the structure of neuronal membranes. An article in the June 2006 American Journal of Psychiatry states that omega-3s are known to have membrane-enhancing capabilities in brain cells. It's thought that mega-3s may help fortify the core of a nerve fiber that facilitates the transmission of nerve impulses.

The handful of good scientific studies completed so far are considered preliminary, but they've produced some noteworthy results. For example...

The University of South Australia Study:
"Same or slightly more improvement than after four weeks of Ritalin..."

Published in April 2007, this 30-week randomized clinical trial evaluated 103 Australian children aged 7-12 who had been diagnosed with ADHD. They received either a placebo, or fatty acid capsules plus vitamin E, or fatty acid capsules plus a multivitamin. The multivitamin provided no additional benefits. As measured by the Conners Parent Rating Scale, hyperactivity, inattention and impulsiveness were significantly reduced in the fatty acid group after 15 weeks. At 30 weeks, 40-50% of this group showed the same or slightly more than the improvement after four weeks of Ritalin treatment4

The Oxford-Durham UK Study:
"ADHD symptoms improved substantially..."

Published in May 2005, this randomized clinical trial used 100 British children aged 5-12 who had been diagnosed with both developmental coordination disorder (DCD) and ADHD. Half of the subjects received 558 mg/day of an essential fatty acid (EFA) blend for six months. The other half received a placebo for three months, and the EFA blend for the final three months.

Although motor skills were not improved, the EFA groups improved significantly in reading and spelling skills. Their ADHD symptoms, especially hyperactivity, anxiety, cognition and shyness improved substantially. The researchers concluded that essential fatty acid supplementation is well tolerated by children and that it may be safe and effective for the treatment of DCD5.

"All we know is that if people take these capsules, their behavior, learning and mood can sometimes improve quite dramatically," said lead scientist Dr. Alex Richardson. "But Omega 3 can affect many aspects of brain function, so these benefits could reflect either more efficient chemical signaling or just an increase in blood flow to the brain," he said.

The Neptune Krill Oil Study:
"60.2% improvement in concentration and working capacity..."

Now see the exciting details of what krill oil did for ADHD patients here.


2 Birnbaum et al, Current Medical Research Opinion 2005 21(2):195-205

3 Schachter, HM et al. How efficacious and safe is short-acting methylphenidate for the treatment of attention deficit disorder in children and adolescents? Canadian Medical Association Journal Vol 165 Nov 27 2001 pp 1475-88

4 Sinn, N and Bryan, J. Effect of supplementation with polyunsaturated fatty acids and micronutrients on learning and behavior problems associated with child ADHD. Journal of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics Vol 28 April 2007 pp 82-91

5 Richardson, AJ and Montgomery, P. The Oxford-Durham Study: a randomized, controlled trial of dietary supplementation with fatty acids in children with developmental coordination disorder, Pediatrics Vol 115 May 2005 pp 1360-66

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