Researchers from King's College of London and the Chinese Medical University in Taichung (Taiwan), have found that fish oil supplements Omega-3 improves attention in children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), but only among those with low levels of omega-3 in the blood, as published in the journal 'Translational Psychiatry'.
The researchers say their results provide a personalized medicine approach to psychiatry by demonstrating that omega-3 only works for some children with ADHD. Previous research from the same group found that Children with omega-3 deficiency are more likely to have more severe ADHD.
In a randomized controlled trial, 92 children with ADHD from 6 to 18 years old received high doses of omega-3 EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) or a placebo for 12 weeks.
The researchers found that children with lower blood levels of EPA showed improvements infocused attention and vigilance after taking omega-3 supplements, but these improvements were not seen in children with normal or high levels of EPA.
Also, for those children with high levels of EPA in pre-existing blood, omega-3 supplements had Negative effects about the symptoms of impulsivity.
Warning to parents
Researchers warn that parents should consult with medical professionals before choosing to give your children omega-3 supplements. The deficiency of this fatty acid can be identified by the presence of dry and flaky skin, eczema and dry eyes, and could be confirmed by a blood test like the one performed in this study (although it is currently only available for research purposes).
Previous studies have found inconsistent findings of omega-3 supplementation in ADHD symptoms, with a relatively small overall effect size.
The standard treatments offered to parents whose children have ADHD include stimulants such as methylphenidate. The effect size of the improvement in the care and monitoring of methylphenidate is 0.22-0.42. In comparison, the effect sizes in the omega-3 supplementation trial for those children with low blood EPA levels were larger, 0.89 for focused care and 0.83 for surveillance.
Dr. Jane Chang, co-principal investigator of the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience at King's College, notes that these results "suggest that fish oil supplements are at least as effective as conventional drug treatments among those children with ADHD who are deficient in omega-3 ".
"On the other hand, it is possible to have too much of a good thing, and parents should always consult with their children's psychiatrists, since our study suggests that there could be negative effects for some children," he recalls.
For her part, Professor Carmine Pariante, principal investigator of the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience at King's College, adds that "omega-3 supplements only worked in children who had lower levels of EPA in the blood, as if the intervention was replenishing the lack of this important nutrient.For those children with omega-3 deficiency, fish oil supplements could be a preferable option to standard stimulant treatments. "
Fish Rich Diet
"Our study sets an important precedent for other nutritional interventions, and we can begin to provide the benefits of 'personalized psychiatry' to children with ADHD, "he says.
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 largely in Western countries, have shown average levels of EPA in blood that are lower than in the current study.
Professor Kuan-Pin Su, co-principal investigator of the Chinese Medical University in Taichung, Taiwan, points out that "high levels of EPA in the blood without using supplements can be achieved through a good diet with lots of fish, which is common in some Asian countries like Taiwan and Japan. "
"It is possible that EPA deficiency is more common among children with ADHD in countries with less fish consumption, such as in North America and many countries in Europe, and that fish oil supplementation could have broader benefits for the treatment of the disease than in our study, "he concludes.