the definitive (or as definitive as anything gets in medical studies) word is in. Omega-3 Fatty Acids significantly improve ADHD symptoms!!!. A recent study in the Journal of the Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry performed a meta-analysis, in which all of the well controlled studies on the issue were hooked together statistically. The answer was that there was a definite positive effect. the effect was described as “modest”, about 40% as strong as studies would show using psychostimulants like Ritalin. They also found that the dose of EPA was related to the strength of the effect, but not the dose of DHA. As you may know EPA and DHA are the two main Omega-3 fats found in fish oil, and different products have very different ratios of the two.
A couple of comments: First, the authors made a big point of noting how much stronger an effect medications had. This is undoubtedly true, in the short term, for children who can tolerate the medications. However, they didn’t emphasize enough, in my opinion, how much safer and better tolerated Omega 3′s are.
Second, Integrative doctors like myself do not just substitute Omega 3′s for stimulants. Omega 3′s are part of a balanced approach which includes nutrition, normalization of other vitamins and minerals, behavioral approaches, and the many other interventions I’ve discussed here and in my book. From that point of view, the news that Omega 3′s, all by themselves, are 40% as effective as psychostimulants is very good news indeed.
So go out there and get that fish oil, but make sure you get a product with more EPA than DHA. I like Carlson’s, Nordic Naturals, and Metagenics products, among others.
Here’s a link to the article, for those who are interested. O-3 Metanalysis 2011.