Fish oil helps attention deficit in children

16 August 2005

in 2005

Researchers in Adelaide have found that a commercially available dietary supplement can improve the attention and behaviour of children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

The parents of children who spent 15 weeks on a course of capsules containing a combination of fish oil and primrose oil with a high ratio of omega-3 fatty acid EPA reported increased attention and reduced hyperactivity, restlessness and impulsivity, says Natalie Sinn from the University of South Australia and CSIRO Nutrition. The same improvements were not reported from children who took a placebo.

The work involved about 145 children with ADHD-related problems. A parallel study in the UK using the same supplement has shown similar results.

In addition, in the Australian trial, children taking the fish oil supplement also did better on tests of attention, and improved their vocabulary.

“Fish oil is believed to work via effects on brain function,” Sinn says. “Sixty per cent of the brain is composed of fats, the most important being polyunsaturated omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. These fats must be obtained through diet, such as dark leafy vegetables, walnuts, linseeds, and oily fish.

“There is now a growing body of research to suggest that some children with developmental problems, including ADHD and dyslexia, can benefit from taking omega-3 supplements. And no adverse effects have been reported to date.”

Natalie is one of 13 Fresh Scientists presenting their research to the public for the first time thanks to Fresh Science, a national program hosted by the State Library of Victoria. One of the Fresh Scientists will win a trip to the UK courtesy of the British Council to present his or her work to the Royal Institution.

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