Omega-3 oils boost attention as much as ADHD drugs in some children

A placebo-controlled trial with 92 children suggests that omega-3 fish oil supplements can improve attention in children with ADHD as well as drug treatments, but only in children whose blood levels of omega-3 are low.

A placebo-controlled trial with 92 children suggests that omega-3 fish oil supplements can improve attention in children with ADHD as well as drug treatments, but only in children whose blood levels of omega-3 are low. Researchers in the United Kingdom and Taiwan say the findings suggest a "personalized medicine" strategy should be used for ADHD and other psychiatric conditions. Carmine Pariante, MD, PhD, FRCPsych, a professor at the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience at King's College London who co-led the trial, says: "The omega-3 supplements only worked in children that had lower levels of EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) in their blood, as if the intervention was replenishing a lack of this important nutrient." In the study, published in Translational Psychiatry, researchers from King's College and the China Medical University in Taiwan gave 92 children aged 6–18 years and who had ADHD either high doses of EPA or a placebo for 12 weeks. Results showed that children with the lowest blood levels of EPA showed improvements in focused attention and vigilance after taking the omega-3 supplements. However, researchers stress that parents should not give their children fish oil supplements without checking with a physician, noting that omega-3 levels can be checked with a blood test.