ADHD, or attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, is the most common neurobehavioral disorder in children. It is believed to affect up to 1 in 20 children in the United States. A recent study published in the journal Nutrition found that in children supplemented with omega-3 EPA and DHA, those with the highest levels of DHA detected in red blood cell membrane tests (which most accurately reflect tissue levels of omega-3s) experienced improvements in attention, literacy, and behavior.

This study identified a specific groups of ADHD children who may most benefit from omega-3 DHA—those children who also have reading and spelling difficulties. Ninety children between ages 9 and 12 were randomized into three groups: One group received 1,109 mg EPA + 108 mg DHA per day, another group received 264 mg EPA + 1,032 mg DHA per day, and the third group received a placebo. Although there was not a significant difference between groups, those children who had the highest levels of DHA in red blood cell membranes experienced the improvements in attention, literacy, and behavior. The authors also noted that increased levels of EPA were associated with improvements in anxiety and shyness, suggesting the two omega-3s have differing benefits.

The researchers concluded, “Given the low omega-3 PUFA intakes in Western populations generally, the variation in the diagnostic criteria between the studies to date, and the recent evidence that DHA supplementation can improve sustained attention and frontal lobe function in healthy boys, future research should explore the benefits of omega-3 PUFA supplementation for children who have developmentally delayed school performance but not necessarily a clinically diagnosed developmental disorder.”

I have blogged on the link between ADHD and toxin exposure before. This condition affects so many children and it seems to be increasing. The omega-3 fatty acid DHA is very important in the brain development of infants, so it doesn’t surprise me that it helps improve ADHD and related symptoms. Diet is an important factor to any condition, and we know that the Standard American Diet (SAD) is highly deficient in the essential omega-3s.