Original Article

Omega-3 Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids in Youths with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder: a Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Clinical Trials and Biological Studies

  • Neuropsychopharmacology volume 43, pages 534545 (2018)
  • doi:10.1038/npp.2017.160
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Abstract

The role of omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (omega-3 or n-3 PUFAs) in the pathogenesis and treatment of children and adolescents with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is unclear. A systematic review followed by meta-analysis was conducted on: (1) randomized controlled trials (RCTs) assessing the effects of n-3 PUFAs on clinical symptoms and cognition in children and adolescent with ADHD; and (2) case–control studies assessing the levels of n-3 PUFAs in blood and buccal tissues of children and adolescents with ADHD. In seven RCTs, totalling n=534 randomized youth with ADHD, n-3 PUFAs supplementation improves ADHD clinical symptom scores (g=0.38, p<0.0001); and in three RCTs, totalling n=214 randomized youth with ADHD, n-3 PUFAs supplementation improves cognitive measures associated with attention (g=1.09, p=0.001). Moreover, children and adolescents with ADHD have lower levels of DHA (seven studies, n=412, g=−0.76, p=0.0002), EPA (seven studies, n=468, g=−0.38, p=0.0008), and total n-3 PUFAs (six studies, n=396, g=−0.58, p=0.0001). In summary, there is evidence that n-3 PUFAs supplementation monotherapy improves clinical symptoms and cognitive performances in children and adolescents with ADHD, and that these youth have a deficiency in n-3 PUFAs levels. Our findings provide further support to the rationale for using n-3 PUFAs as a treatment option for ADHD.

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Author information

Affiliations

  1. Department of Psychological Medicine, Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience, King’s College London, London, UK

    • Jane Pei-Chen Chang
    • , Kuan-Pin Su
    • , Valeria Mondelli
    •  & Carmine M Pariante
  2. Department of Psychiatry, China Medical University Hospital, Taichung, Taiwan

    • Jane Pei-Chen Chang
    •  & Kuan-Pin Su
  3. Department of Psychiatry, College of Medicine, China Medical University, Taichung, Taiwan

    • Jane Pei-Chen Chang
    •  & Kuan-Pin Su
  4. Brain Disease Research Center, China Medical University Hospital, Taichung, Taiwan

    • Kuan-Pin Su

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Corresponding author

Correspondence to Jane Pei-Chen Chang.

Supplementary information

Supplementary Information accompanies the paper on the Neuropsychopharmacology website (http://www.nature.com/npp)