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DHA improves ADHD

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By David Liu, PHD

Monday Oct 8, 2012 (foodconsumer.org) -- If your child acts like he or she has attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), you may want to give them some fish oil supplement or DHA/EPA supplements.   A new study in Nutrition suggests that high intake of omega-3 fatty acids, particularly DHA helps improve the condition of ADHD.

C.M. Milte of Nutritional Physiology Research Centre, University of South Australia in Adelaide, South Australia, Australia and colleagues conducted the study and found increased intake of docosahexaenoic acid was associated with improved word reading and better behaviors.

Fish oil contains high levels of eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), two major long chain omega 3 polyunsaturated fatty acids.  Intake of these omega-3 fatty acids has been associated with improved medical conditions like ADHD, the researchers said.

For the study, 90 Australian children aged 7 to 12 years with ADHD symptoms higher than the 90th percentile on the Conners Rating Scales were given supplements rich in EPA, DHA, or safflower oil for four months.

Cognition, literacy, and parent-rated behavior were assessed and erythrocyte fatty acid profiles were determined at baseline and at the end of the 4-month supplementation.

The researchers found no significant differences between the groups in the primary outcomes at the end of the 4-month supplementation regimen.  However, the erythrocyte fatty acid profiles showed a link between increased levels of DHA in erythrocytes and improved word reading, and lower parent ratings of oppositional behavior.

These improvements were found more significant in 17 children with learning difficulties. Those with high levels of DHA in erythrocytes improved word reading, spelling, ability to divide attention and lower parent ratings of oppositional behaviors, hyperactivity, restlessness, and overall ADHD symptoms.

The researchers concluded "Increases in erythrocyte ω-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids, specifically DHA, may improve literacy and behavior in children with ADHD. The greatest benefit may be observed in children who have comorbid learning difficulties."

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