Skip to main content

Thank you for visiting nature.com. You are using a browser version with limited support for CSS. To obtain the best experience, we recommend you use a more up to date browser (or turn off compatibility mode in Internet Explorer). In the meantime, to ensure continued support, we are displaying the site without styles and JavaScript.

Omega-3 fatty acids in the management of autism spectrum disorders: findings from an open-label pilot study in Singapore

Abstract

The goal of this open-label trial was to examine the efficacy and safety of a 12-week omega-3 fatty acids supplementation among children suffering with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD). A total of 41 children and adolescents aged 7–18 years (36 boys, 5 girls; mean age=11.66, s.d.=3.05) diagnosed with ASD participated in the study. At post-treatment, participants showed significant improvements on all subscales of the Social Responsiveness Scale (P<0.01) and the Social and Attention Problems syndrome scales of the Child Behavior Checklist (P<0.05). Blood fatty acid levels were significantly correlated with changes in the core symptoms of ASD. Baseline levels of blood fatty acid levels were also predictive of response to the omega-3 treatment. Omega-3 fatty acids supplementation was well-tolerated and did not cause any serious side effects. Our findings lend some preliminary support for the use of omega-3 fatty acids supplementation in addressing ASD. Future randomized controlled trials of omega-3 fatty acids in ASD with blood fatty acid measurements with a larger sample and longer follow-up period is warranted.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution

Relevant articles

Open Access articles citing this article.

Access options

Buy article

Get time limited or full article access on ReadCube.

$32.00

All prices are NET prices.

References

  1. American Psychiatric Association Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. 5th edn. American Psychiatric Association: Washington DC, 2013.

  2. Bell JG, MacKinlay EE, Dick JR, MacDonald DJ, Boyle RM, Glen AC . Essential fatty acids and phospholipase A2 in autistic spectrum disorders. Prostaglandins Leukot Essent Fatty Acids 2004; 71: 201–204.

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  3. Freeman MP, Hibbeln JR, Wisner KL, Davis JM, Mischoulon D, Peet M et al2006. Omega-3 fatty acids: evidence basis for treatment and future research in psychiatry. J Clin Psychiatry 2006; 67: 1954–1967.

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  4. Amminger GP, Berger GE, Schafer MR, Klier C, Friedrich MH, Feucht M . Omega-3 fatty acids supplementation in children with autism: a double-blind randomized, placebo-controlled pilot study. Biol Psychiatry 2005; 61: 551–553.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  5. Bent S, Bertoglio K, Ashwood P, Bostrom A, Hendren RL . A pilot randomized controlled trial of omega-3 fatty acids for autism spectrum disorder. J Autism Dev Disord 2011; 41: 545–554.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  6. Meiri G, Bichovsky Y, Belmaker RH . Omega-3 fatty acid treatment in autism. J Child Adolesc Psychopharmacol 2009; 19: 449–451.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  7. Bent S, Bertoglio K, Hendren RL . Omega-3 fatty acids for autistic spectrum disorder: a systematic review. J Autism Dev Disord 2009; 39: 1145–1154.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  8. American Psychiatric Association Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. 4th edn. American Psychiatric Association: Washington DC, 2000.

  9. Wechsler D . Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children (WISC-IV). 4th edn. Harcourt Assessment Inc: San Antonio, TX, USA, 2003.

    Google Scholar 

  10. Wechsler D . Wechsler Preschool and Primary Scale of Intelligence—Revised (WPPSI-R). The Psychological Corporation: San Antonio, TX, USA, 1989.

    Google Scholar 

  11. Constantino JN, Gruber CP . Social Responsiveness Scale. Western Psychological Services: Los Angeles, USA, 2005.

    Google Scholar 

  12. Achenbach TM, Rescorla LA . Research Center for Children, Youth, and Families Manual for the ASEBA School-Age Forms & Profiles. University of Vermont: Burlington, VT, USA, 2001.

    Google Scholar 

  13. Cohen J . Statistical Power Analysis for the Behavioral Sciences. 2nd edn. Lawrence Erlbaum: Hillsdale, NJ, USA, 1988.

    Google Scholar 

  14. Yehuda S, Rabinovitz S, Mostofsky DI . Essential fatty acids and the brain: from infancy to aging. Neurobiol Aging 2006; 26: 98–102.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  15. Simopoulos AP . The importance of the ratio of omega-6/omega-3 essential fatty acids. Biomed Pharmacother 2002; 56: 365–379.

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

Download references

Acknowledgements

We thank Efamol for providing the omega-3 fatty acids supplementation and for partially sponsoring the study. We also thank Chee Yu Yan and Lim Ee Wen for their contribution to the study and the families of the persons who participated in the study.

DISCLAIMER

Efamol had no role in the design or conduct of the study, data collection, management, analysis and interpretation of the findings, and the preparation and approval of this manuscript.

Author information

Authors and Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to M Sung.

Ethics declarations

Competing interests

The authors declare no conflict of interest.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Ooi, Y., Weng, SJ., Jang, L. et al. Omega-3 fatty acids in the management of autism spectrum disorders: findings from an open-label pilot study in Singapore. Eur J Clin Nutr 69, 969–971 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1038/ejcn.2015.28

Download citation

  • Received:

  • Revised:

  • Accepted:

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1038/ejcn.2015.28

This article is cited by

Search

Quick links