DAILY dose of fish oil helps calm children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, an Australian study suggests, PhD psychology student Natalie Sinn, of the University of South Australia and CSIRO Nutrition, studied 145 children aged seven to 12 with ADHD over 15 weeks.
Half were given a commercially available dietary supplement containing a combination of fish oil and evening primrose oil, in a ratio of four to one.
The other group took a placebo – an inactive treatment.
In what's known as a double-blind study, parents, children and researchers did not know whether children were taking the daily fish oil capsules or the placebo.
MS Sinn said when parents were later questioned, children on the active fish oil capsules, rich in omega-3 fatty acids, showed improvements in attention, behaviour and vocabulary.
"They were able to concentrate better, they were calmer, less impulsive, that sort of thing," Ms Sinn said in an interview.
"The same improvements were not reported from children who took the placebo."
When the placebo group switched to the fish oil capsules for a further 15 weeks, they showed similar benefits.
Children recruited into the study were not taking medication for their ADHD.
They were given just under a gram of fish oil a day in the trial.
Ms Sinn said 60 per cent of the brain was composed of fats, the most important being omega-3 fatty acids, such as those found in fish oil, and omega-6, like those in evening primrose oil.
She said many people in western societies were deficient in the omega-3 fatty acids, such as those found in dark leafy vegetables, nuts, seeds and oily fish.
"There's a growing body of research that's finding evidence of links between omega-3 deficiency and mental health problems like depression and schizophrenia," Ms Sinn said.
"Research is also suggesting that some children with developmental problems, including ADHD and dyslexia, can benefit from taking omega-3 supplements."
Ms Sinn said no adverse effects had been reported to date.
By comparison, Ritalin – a drug commonly used to treat ADHD – has been linked to suicidal thoughts, hallucinations, aggressive and violent behaviour and heart problems.
Ms Sinn said the fish oil in her study had higher concentrations of eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) to docosahexaenoic acid (DPA).
"Researchers are starting to think that perhaps EPA is the important one," she explained.
The Adelaide-based researcher urged general practitioners, psychologists and psychiatrists to take the research on board as evidence about the benefits of fish oil accumulates.
Ms Sinn presented her research in Melbourne at the State Library of Victoria.
Comment: A few years ago I wrote this article for the Brentwood Times and I will reprint it below...
ADD/ADHD, Disorder or Deficiency?
Recent research in the area Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, (ADHD), shows that 3% to 5% of our children here in the U.S. suffer from this difficult problem. Symptoms of this disorder include short attention span, inability to complete tasks, hyperactivity, and a tendency to interrupt others. In addition to these behavioral issues, nearly 25% of these children suffer from one or more specific learning disabilities in math, spelling, or reading. Most parents of children with ADD/ADHD report feelings of frustration because they know their kids are quite bright in spite of the evident behavior. So here is the critical question…Are these children deficient in Ridlin, the drug of choice these days, or is something natural missing from their diets?
Since 1995, many reputable studies around the world have suggested that ADD and ADHD are actually caused by a deficiency in certain essential fatty acids and not necessarily disorders requiring drug therapy. A study first reported in 1995, conducted at Purdue University, linked a sub-clinical deficiency in a long chain fatty acid derived from fish, called Docosahexaenoic Acid, or DHA, as responsible for the abnormal behavior of children with ADD/ADHD.
In 1997, Dr. Barbara Levine, Professor of Nutrition in Medicine at Cornell University, sounded the alarm that most Americans were grossly deficient in DHA because of a lack of enough fish in the American diet. DHA is the building block of human brain tissue and is very abundant in the gray matter of the brain and the retina of the eye. Low levels of DHA in adults have also recently been associated with many health issues such as depression, memory loss, dementia and visual problems.
It turns out that the DHA of an infant’s brain triples during the first 3 months of life. Lactating mothers and women who are pregnant should make sure that they are getting optimal levels of DHA during that crucial time period. Unfortunately, according to Dr. Levine, the average DHA content of breast milk in the U.S. is the smallest in the world, most likely due to our low intake of fish, relative to other countries. Making matters worse, she tells us that the U.S. is the only country in the world where infant formulas are not fortified with DHA. This, despite the fact that in 1995, the World Health Organization recommended that all baby formulas should provide at least 40mg of DHA per kilo of infant body weight. Dr. Levine believes that postpartum depression, ADD, ADHD, and low IQ’s are all linked to the dismally low intake of DHA in the U.S.
Have you ever wondered why more male children are diagnosed with ADD/ADHD compared with girls? Researchers at the School of Medicine at the University of Auckland discovered that male animals require 3 times as much essential fatty acids as do females in order to achieve normal neonatal infant development. Their studies also confirm that blood analysis of ADD/ADHD kids showed significantly depressed levels of DHA, and in most cases, low levels of zinc, an important trace mineral known for improving learning.
For many health reasons, Americans should eat cold-water fish like Salmon or Mackerel at least 3 times per week, or consider supplementing with up to 850mg of concentrated fish oil from a reputable source, as many scientists are suggesting. I encourage you to contact us for reprints of the studies I have on file so you can read more about this important research.
Christopher Wiechert, C.N.C.
Christopher Wiechert's Healthblogger is for educational or informational purposes only, and is not intended to diagnose or provide treatment for any condition. If you have any concerns about your own health, you should always consult with a healthcare professional. To be removed from this e-mail program, reply back and say unsubscribe.