Omega-3 fish oil can benefit children with ADHD symptoms, study says Published: 19 April, 2007
RESULTS released from the largest clinical-based omega-3 and omega-6 trial of its kind show that supplementation with fatty acids relieves the symptoms of ADHD, adding to a growing body of evidence that nutritional intervention can directly benefit children who have issues with inattention, hyperactivity and impulsivity.
The new double-blind, randomised, placebo-controlled trial, published in this month’s issue of The Journal of Developmental and Behavioural Pediatrics was undertaken by The University of South Australia and Australia’s leading government research body, the CSIRO Human Nutrition.
The trial involved 132 children aged 7-12 with ADHD symptoms, and the active fatty acid used was Equazen’s eye q(TM) supplement, which has shown significant benefits in other groundbreaking research focused on learning conditions.
Children were included in the study if parent ratings of Conners’ ADHD Index scale scored above the 90th percentile of the general population. Participants were not recruited onto the trial if they were receiving stimulant medication, or if they had been taking any form of omega-3 supplementation three months prior to the study.
For the first 15 weeks, the Australian researcher divided the children into three groups. One group took eye q(TM), the second group took eye q(TM) and a multi-vitamin/mineral supplement, while the third group took placebo palm oil capsules. At the 15-week crossover, all participating children were given eye q(TM) and the multivitamins/minerals.
“The results support those of other studies that have found improvements in developmental problems symptomatic of ADHD with Polyunsaturated Fatty Acid supplementation and show promise therefore for some children as a treatment adjunct,” said the lead researcher, Dr Natalie Sinn.
“Importantly, core symptoms of hyperactivity, impulsivity and inattention improved on average from the upper clinical range on Conners’ ADHD Index, to mildly clinical, after 30 weeks of supplementation.”
The key results reported in the American peer-reviewed journal were:
– At the end of the 30-week-long trial almost half of the children taking eye q(TM) for the entire study saw significant reductions in the core ADHD symptoms of inattention, hyperactivity and impulsivity.
– After the placebo group switched to the combined oil supplement for 15 weeks, they showed significant improvements in parent behaviour ratings and attention span.
– The original eye q(TM) group continued to show improvements after an additional 15 weeks of taking the combined oil supplement in cognitive problems, inattention, restlessness, impulsivity and hyperactivity.
– Taking a multivitamin/mineral supplement showed no additional benefits for ADHD symptoms, indicating that fatty acids are more important.
– The findings indicate that treatment effects of omega-3 and omega-6 are comparable with average treatment effects of stimulant medication trials, based on parent ratings of behaviour.
The results from this Australian study build on the findings of the groundbreaking Oxford-Durham Trial funded by Durham County Council in conjunction with Oxford University, which were published in the American journal, Pediatrics and The Nutrition & Health Journal.
In this clinical trial, the researchers announced that 40% of the 117 children with learning and behavioural conditions who took eye q(TM) made dramatic improvements in reading and spelling.
“The Adelaide clinical trial adds further evidence to the wealth of information already available that shows that children with attention problems can benefit from supplementation,” said Dr Madeleine Portwood, Senior Educational Psychologist at Durham Local Education Authority, and lead researcher for the Oxford-Durham Trial.
“The clinical trial in Durham for primary aged children also showed these positive benefits, and the children’s improvement in concentration enabled them to better access the learning opportunities presented to them in school. “
Both the Oxford-Durham Trial and the Adelaide Trial underscore how nutritional intervention may assist with problems that can be linked to low achievement. It is hoped that the recent trial findings will prompt further investigation into the role that nutrition can play for school-aged children.
The Food Standards Agency last year concluded after a review of current published evidence into the effect of diet and nutrition on learning, education and performance, at the time, that the state of research was inconclusive. The Adelaide trial fits the criteria for inclusion in any future assessment. The FSA did refer to the Oxford-Durham trial involving the eye q(TM) formulation concluding that it was: “The only study to report consistent and highly significant improvements in both objective and subjective behavioural and educational outcomes assessed in the EPA rich treatment group.”
Philip Calder, Professor of Nutritional Immunology at the University of Southampton added: “The results of this latest trial add to the growing body of evidence showing that children with attention problems can benefit from increased intake of certain fatty acids.”
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