Potential role of fatty acids in ADHD treatment.




Prog Neuropsychopharmacol Biol Psychiatry

Related Monographs

Consumer Data: Alpha-Lipoic Acid (ALA) Attention Deficit (Hyperactivity) Disorder (ADD/ADHD) Docosahexaenoic Acid (DHA)
Professional Data: Alpha-Lipoic Acid (ALA) Attention Deficit (Hyperactivity) Disorder (ADD/ADHD) Docosahexaenoic Acid (DHA)


A child with ADHD usually shows signs of this disorder by the age of three and almost always by the age of seven. A child with ADHD will is unable to focus his/her attention on repetitive tasks, is easily distracted, has frequent outbursts of energy, is often fidgety, and has difficulty following instructions. Depending on the severity, a child may be considered "difficult to control". While adjusting to the symptoms that a child with ADHD displays is difficult, treatment is usually not necessary until the child enters school. In fact, because the condition is more often diagnosed in boys than in girls, the active behaviors associated with boys at a young age may make a parent hesitant to seek medical attention. When a child enters school, however, the demands for performance and consistency of behavior may accentuate the symptoms and the parent or the teachers may request testing to determine if ADHD is present.

Depending on how severe the symptoms are, parents may choose either a pharmaceutical or natural approach. Sometimes a combination of the two will offer the best effects in managing the symptoms. Regardless of the path of treatment, the single most important element that a parent or teacher can offer is patience. This is not always easy because it requires a daily commitment to helping the child and the family deal with behaviors that are disruptive. Nevertheless, patience and support are fundamental.

Some researchers predict that the cause of many symptoms related to ADHD may be due to deficiencies in highly unsaturated fatty acids (HUFA's). A recent randomized double blind, placebo controlled study examined this hypothesis. Forty-one children between the ages of 8 and 12 years were recruited that had specific learning problems and above average ADHD ratings. For 12 weeks these children received either a HUFA supplement or placebo. At the beginning of this study children were equal in ratings for learning and behavioral problems. After 12 weeks cognitive problems and behavior problems were significantly improved in the HUFA group. The group receiving placebo showed virtually no progress. The authors concluded, " HUFA supplementation appears to reduce ADHD-related symptoms in children with specific learning difficulties. Given the safety and tolerability of this simple treatment, results from this pilot study strongly support the case for further investigations."1


1. Richardso AJ. A randomized double-blind, placebo-controlled study of the effects of supplementation with highly unsaturated fatty acids on ADHD-related symptoms in children with specific learning difficulties.Prog Neuropsychopharmacol Biol Psychiatry. Feb 2002;26(2):233-9.