Sign Up
Omega 3 ADHD
6 Minutes

Omega 3: another tool in the fight to treat and prevent ADHD?!

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is on the rise these days. Is it better diagnosis? Or is it happening more? Perhaps both. However, as a parent or parent-to-be there are science based tools we can use to tackle and hopefully try and prevent. We look at the latest research that strengthens the use of Omega 3 (DHA+EPA). We look at how and why it is worth considering as a tool for both treatment and prevention. 

Omega 3 ADHD

ADHD is tough for parents and for children. There are of course a variety of causes and treatments that are widely discussed. Everyone is unique in their needs. However we believe in people having as much science based evidence as possible to consider their options for both treatment and prevention.

So Can Omega 3 really help with ADHD? Here’s what the research suggests… 

ADHD has been linked to many things. Ranging from paracetamol use during pregnancy, to environmental and epigenetic effects during early brain development (click here for more from our resident expert Christophe Sauerwein). It has also been linked to a common enemy: Chronic Inflammation. Click here for much more on this. 

The reality is (as with most things) there are likely many potential causes. Question is, what can we do about it?

How does Omega 3 work – and does it really work? 

Some people will decide to medicate ADHD, no judgement. However, it is not the only route. One option that is getting attention in recent research is Omega 3 due to the results. Plus he fact it has many benefits and very little in terms of side effects unlike many ADHD medications.

How can this help little brains? 

Science has established a few things:

DHA + EPA (which make up Omega 3 also known as Polyunsaturated fatty acids) are essential fatty acids for our brain and body. They have been closely associated with cognitive function and academic performance and DHA is abundant in the brain. (1, 2) In part linked to it’s ability to reduce inflammation.

Omega 3/Omega 6 ratio has become imbalanced in our modern diets and lifestyles. That is because Omega 6 is commonly in processed foods. Tipping the balance and causing inflammation in the body. Not what you want. Click here for a reminder as to why. 

There is increasing research suggesting that inflammation within the brain may play a role in things like depression and ADHD. Click here for more. 

So: all this suggests we need it!

So, can Omega 3 fight this inflammation? 

Here’s what the research suggests:

‘There is some evidence suggesting that ADHD is associated with increased inflammation’. (1) For example children with ADHD are more likely to suffer with asthma and atopic dermatitis.

Several studies, including this one here, have shown EPA to reduce inflammation. Even more potent is a mix of EPA and DHA (which make up Omega 3). With some evidence of ‘EPA pre-treatment able to prevent inflammation’. (1)

But, does this translate into less symptoms of ADHD? 

There is rarely a universal slam dunk with these things. However, recent research has shown improved symptoms (vs placebo) with EPA and EPA+DHA treatment. With the biggest benefit shown in those who have been deficient before treatment. (1)

There are other elements around ADHD which Omega 3 has been shown to have some benefit with. For example, animal studies suggest effects on neurotransmission. Specifically via increased levels of serotonin and dopamine – and cell survival. (2)

They have also been shown to help minimise oxidative stress, which can be increased in individuals with ADHD. (2). Click here for more on Oxidative Stress and why we don’t want it! 

Bottom Line: 

Bottom line: ‘In ADHD, clinically meaningful effect sizes have been observed in some studies using PUFA supplements.’. In fact a recent committee of eight international experts on ADHD acknowledged the research and potential benefit of it’s use against ADHD. Click here for more. 

So: definitively worth investigating….

So how do we get more Omega 3? And how much do we need? 

The body does not produce it’s own (this is why they are sometimes called ‘essential’ fatty acids. So, the most effective way is from fatty fish. Ideally low down the food chain to reduce the impact of heavy metal. Click here for a kiddy friendly way to get more (not every child likes fish!). 

For vegetarian and vegans – fear not seaweed and algae are great sources. Click here to learn a lot more about the benefits of Algae. Yep, really.

Flaxseed is sometimes discussed but this is a source of ALA rather than EPA/DHA. Confusing I know!

How much do we need and when? 

Many of the studies referenced used around 500-800 mg/day (although it went in some cases higher than that to 1200mg/day). In fact the study here suggested that a higher dose (1200mg of EPA) was effective in children who were deficient. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietics recommends approx 500mg/day of DHA in the prenatal diet. So that is a good starting point. However, if in doubt always ask your doctor. Too much isn’t a good thing either!

Ok so that’s for prevention, what about if you have ADHD? 

For a child with ADHD – this study (1) showed benefit using 900mg/day of DHA and EPA (165mg DHA/635mg EPA) had positive results. Once again though, this is a conversation to have with your paediatrician. There are not clear cut standard guidelines at present. There is also likely a difference between using for prevention and using for treatment. It is a must-have conversation.

How do you get there? 

As a sceptic on supplements (largely because they are unregulated and full of pitfalls if you dont get the right brand – click here for more). We always prefer going down the food route if you can.

How much fish do you need to reach that level? 

Well: according to www.alwaysomega3s.com (there really is a website for everything!) a serving size of omega 3 rich fish is around 3.5oz cooked. Two servings of that size according to them should = between 650mg up to 3,000. Two servings per week are recommended.

Pregnancy and supplements: 

Of course not everyone likes fish (especially not small kids), seaweed or algae! So look out for a supplement with EPA/DHA mix – should be labelled Omega 3. Look for those that use fatty fish low down the food chain and ideally wild not farmed.

Research shows that pregnancy is a time to think about this as a supplement too. In fact one trial showed that infants from mothers who were supplemented maintained a consistent level of sustained attention… while sustained attention dropped off across the first year in infants from non-supplemented mothers. (3)

Click here for MUCH more, plus the additional benefits during pregnancy.

Ok so final action points? 

It appears having enough DHA/EPA also known as Omega 3 in your diet is a really important tool towards healthy brains. Getting enough either via algae/seaweed or a couple of pieces of fatty fish is a great start. Including during pregnancy. If your child does have ADHD it is worth a discussion with your paediatrician about a supplement.

For further thoughts from our resident experts on ADHD click here. 

Footnotes: 

1) High-dose eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) improves attention and vigilance in children and adolescents with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and low endogenous EPA levels: Translational Psychiatry: Nov19.  

2) Supplementation with polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) in the management of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Nutrition and Health. 2018 Vol 24(4). 

(3) TONG L, XIONG X, TAN H: Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder and Lifestyle-Related Behaviours in Children: PLoS One: 2016: 11(9)

————————————————————————————————————————————————————

This article is for informational purposes only. This article is not, nor is it intended to be, a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment and should never be relied upon for specific medical advice. The information on this website has been developed following years of personal research and from referenced and sourced medical research. Before making any changes we strongly recommend you consult a healthcare professional before you begin.

The Journey Logo

Copyright © 2019

Welcome to The Journey

Each month we will be giving away a curated box of goodies to suit the individual stage of your Journey, worth £100. To enter the draw and join us, enter your details below. Winner announced at the end of the month.

 

Welcome to The Journey

Each month we will be giving away a curated box of goodies to suit the individual stage of your Journey, worth £100. To enter the draw and join us, enter your details below. Winner announced at the end of the month.

 

Next on your journey?