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Can Omega-3 Fatty Acids Help ADHD Patients?

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Research suggests that omega-3's with existing pharmaceutical agents can help improve ADHD symptoms in a safer and less side effect driven manner. The ability of fatty acids to infiltrate into the brain, integrate into membranes, promote antioxidant/inflammatory activity suggests their use to improve neural deficits observed in mood and attention disorders.

Attention disorders are serious chronic conditions that can affect the attention and behavior of individuals starting as children and all the way into adulthood.

Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a subset of attention disorders where individuals feel heightened levels of hyperactivity and impulsiveness that hinders attention spans. Common symptoms plaguing ADHD patients include:

  • Fidgeting
  • Irritability
  • Absent-mindedness
  • Forgetfulness
  • Anxiety
  • Depression.

Though many of the adverse effects of ADHD are related to attention and activity, individuals also suffer from self-esteem and learning deficits that impact daily life.

They are likely to interrupt, violate rules, and receive negative attention from peers, causing potential mental disorders and substance abuse. There are more than 3 million cases of ADHD reported in the United States every year. Males are more likely to develop ADHD and individuals are at highest prevalence from ages 6-40 years.

Treatment Options Explored

Current treatments for ADHD include a variety of pharmaceutical agents or therapy to psychoanalyze and improve daily life for those with this disorder.

Fatty Acids To The Fore

In the past couple of decades, research has shifted to investigate the use of fatty acids as a source of neural therapy for individuals with attention disorders.

Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), a-linolenic acid (ALA), and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) are three prominent acid components in long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids. DHA has been shown to concentrate within the brain tissue and neural membranes, affecting neuronal function and structure.

Furthermore, ALA deficiency has shown to reduce the concentration of DHA in the brain membrane lipids, in turn influencing the behavior. The tie between ADHD and fatty acids is seen in the abnormal levels of omega-3:omega-6 fatty acid ratios in the brains of individuals suffering from ADHD.

A recent study sought to elaborate on the relationship between omega 3 fatty acid supplementation and ADHD symptoms through a 12-week clinical trial with school age boys exhibiting ADHD characteristics.1

After 12 weeks of intervention, those supplemented with omega-3 capsules sustained significantly higher levels of EPA and DHA than the control group. Behavior alterations were less significant between the two groups, showing that progress could be made with higher supplementation levels and longer study duration.

EPA has shown many beneficial effects for depression and anxiety, so the partnership of EPA and DHA could lend benefits to adverse symptoms of ADHD as well. Researchers additionally proposed the marriage of omega-3 supplementation with existing pharmaceutical agents to alleviate the adversities of ADHD in a safer and less side effect driven manner.

There is a growing field of research centered on fatty acid supplementation with mood and attention disorders. The culmination of these research efforts through clinical trials possesses the potential for implementation in natural therapy, but more time and trials will be devoted to provide sufficient evidence of these therapeutic benefits.

The molecular mechanisms of fatty acids to infiltrate into the brain, integrate into membranes, and promote antioxidant activity and inflammatory responses suggests their use to improve neural deficits observed in mood and attention disorders such as ADHD.

References   [ + ]

1.Matsudaira, Toshiko, Rachel V. Gow, Joanna Kelly, Caroline Murphy, Laura Potts, Alexander Sumich, Kebreab Ghebremeskel, Michael A. Crawford, and Eric Taylor. “Biochemical and Psychological Effects of Omega-3/6 Supplements in Male Adolescents with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder: A Randomized, Placebo-Controlled, Clinical Trial.” Journal of child and adolescent psychopharmacology 25, no. 10 (2015): 775-782.
Warren Cargal L. Ac.

Warren L. Cargal, M. A., L. Ac. is a licensed acupuncturist, herbalist and also a diplomat with the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine. He has practiced Chinese medicine for over 15 years. He maintains an active clinic practice in Atlanta Ga. Cargal is also the CEO of acuatlanta.net an online eCommerce store offering Chinese herbal formulas, professional grade nutritional supplements and organic facial products. The store offers an extensive knowledge base of articles, research abstracts and monographs on herbs, formulas and supplements.

Warren Cargal L. Ac.

Warren L. Cargal, M. A., L. Ac. is a licensed acupuncturist, herbalist and also a diplomat with the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine. He has practiced Chinese medicine for over 15 years. He maintains an active clinic practice in Atlanta Ga. Cargal is also the CEO of acuatlanta.net an online eCommerce store offering Chinese herbal formulas, professional grade nutritional supplements and organic facial products. The store offers an extensive knowledge base of articles, research abstracts and monographs on herbs, formulas and supplements.

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