Fatty Acid Supplementation in Children with Developmental Coordination Disorder.





Related Monographs

Consumer Data: Omega-3 Fatty Acids Omega-6 Fatty Acids
Professional Data: Omega-3 Fatty Acids Omega-6 Fatty Acids


It has been suggested that a lack of essential fatty acids is a possible cause of hyperactivity in children. It is more likely the result of varying biochemical influences. These children have a deficiency of essential fatty acids (EFAs) either because they cannot metabolize linoleic acid normally, cannot absorb EFAs effectively from the gut, or because their EFA requirements are higher than normal.

While many scientists believe that severe deficiencies of omega-3 fatty acids exist in the United States, the same cannot be said of omega-6. By some estimates, many Americans consume 30 times more omega-6 fatty acids than omega-3. This is because so many of the common vegetable oils in the American diet—such as corn, safflower and sunflower oils— are packed with omega-6. Many Americans don't get enough omega-3 in their diets. One reason is that omega-3 oils are very susceptible to spoilage and so many food manufacturers remove it to keep products fresh. Another reason is that omega-3 oils mostly come from cold-water fish and wild game— something most Americans don't eat in great quantities.

A recent study investigated the role of omega fatty acids in neurodevelopmental and psychiatric disorders including as dyslexia and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder in children, or referred to as Developmental Coordination Disorder. This study involved 117 children who received omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids or placebo for three months. At the end of these three months, children who had received the placebo were then placed on the active supplements. There was no apparent effect on motor skills in either group. However, after the first three months, the omega group showed improvement in reading, spelling and behavior. When the placebo group switched to the omegas, these results were also seen after three months. The authors concluded that, “Fatty acid supplementation may offer a safe efficacious treatment option for educational and behavioral problems among children with DCD. Additional work is needed to investigate whether our inability to detect any improvement in motor skills reflects the measures used and to assess the durability of treatment effects on behavior and academic progress.”1


1. Richardson AJ, et al. The Oxford-Durham Study: A Randomized, Controlled Trial of Dietary Supplementation With Fatty Acids in Children With Developmental Coordination Disorder. Pediatrics. May 2005;115(5):1360-6.