Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a neurodevelopmental disorder occurring in children, adolescents, and adults, with an estimated prevalence of 5 to 7 per cent across cultures.  It tends to be more common in boys than girls and can impact heavily on school, work, family and social lives.

Traditionally medications used to treat ADHD include methylphenidate (aka Ritalin), amphetamine, and atomoxetine.  These typically assume that there is a dopamine/norepinephrine deficit, although the aetiology of this condition is more complex.  A new review published by Dr Emma Derbyshire in the Journal of Lipids has now considered to role of omega-3 fatty acids as an ‘adjunctive’ (supporting) treatment alongside conventional medications.  Emma recently spoke of her research in Oslo.  Here are some of her main findings:

  • Sixteen studies were located which used omega fatty acids either as a stand-alone treatment or alongside conventional prescription drugs for the condition.
  • The results found that the majority of the studies (13) reported significant improvements in ADHD symptoms including less hyperactivity and impulsivity, better attention, visual learning and word reading, as well as improved working/short-term memory.
  • Fatty acid supplements which provided a 9:3:1 ratio of eicosapentaenoic acid, docosahexaenoic acid and gamma linolenic acid appear highly effective at improving blood levels of essential fatty acids.
  • Omega-3/6 supplementation programmes maybe a promising adjunctive therapy, lowering the dose of psychopharmacologic medications needed and improving compliance with these.

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