ADD, ADHD and Omega 3 Fatty Acids

Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) develop during childhood and is seen to be becoming an alarming epidemic.  Scientists among many disciplines have conducted many studies in the hopes of becoming closer to understanding the phenomenon.

ADD and ADHD are referred to as a developmental disorder. It is characterised it as a pattern of inattention, most commonly seen in children that do not pay attention at school or work related tasks.  The behaviours are described as hyperactive and impulsive resulting in disruptions to goal achievement, social relationships and academic efforts. It is estimated that 5.2% of children in the United States are diagnosed with these developmental disorders. The treatment of ADD and ADHD is pharmacological. However it is important to note that there are alternatives available.

Within the world of nutrition it is advised that children who are diagnosed with ADD and ADHD should avoid excess carbohydrates and have a regular consumption of protein and fat.  The consumption of fat and protein stabilise blood sugar levels and provide the body with a source of amino acids and other key fat-soluble nutrients that the body requires for stable neurological functioning.  Essential fatty acids, particularly, omega-3 fatty’s acids are known to be deficient in the modern diet. Omega-3 is especially deficient in individuals who experience developmental disorders. Omega-3 fatty acids are highly important to consume as part of a normal healthy diet; if it is not consumed the body will be deficient.

Every cell in the body requires essential fatty acids for proper function and survival. It is important to understand that the human body does not make Omega 3 fatty acids and they can only be sourced by food. The richest sources are flaxseed oil, hemp oil, candlenut, and chia seeds. In addition fish oil, namely cod liver oil. When LNA is consumed two important omega-3 fatty acids are formed: Eicosapentaenoic Acid (EPA) and Docosahexaenoic Acid (DHA). Both of these acids are vital for brain and eye development and found in abundance in brain cells, nerve synapses, visual receptors, adrenal and sex glands. Interestingly, individuals with ADD and ADHD require more EPA than DHA. Therefore it is recommended that individuals should supplement with fish oil that contain higher levels of EPA.

 Within academic literature it is important to note that the lack of research in the area has been discussed and there is no strong studies to date however it is not being discounted. Richardson (2006) meta analysis resulted in the recommendation that further studies are required to explore the dosage, treatment period, comorbidities, and clinical indicators of good responses.

          There is a broad array of literature that supports the use of Omega-3 fatty acids in the treatment of ADD and ADHD.  Omega-3 plays an important role in our health and it is important that individuals are consciously consuming these nutrients as part of a healthy diet.  Further research is required within the area to determine the treatment period, dosage and characteristics measured.



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Campbell-McBride, N. (2010). GAPS Gut and Psychology Syndrome. United Kingdom: Medinform Publishing.

Gedgaudas, N. T. (2011). Primal Body Primal Mind.Vermont: Healing Arts Press.

Richardson, A. J. (2006). Omega-3 fatty acids in ADHD and related neurodevelopmental disorders. International Review of Psychiatry, 18(2): 155-172.