Omega-3 fatty acid supplements are a great dietary complement for individuals with ADHD. They benefit the physical and emotional health of individuals who regularly consume them. In this article, we summarize what you should know about Omega-3 and its benefits for children and adults with ADHD.
What are Omega-3 Fatty Acids?
Omega-3 fatty acids are a group of long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) that are present in oily fish, shellfish, vegetable oils, and nuts.
The three main Omega-3 fatty acids are alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). Of these, ALA is an essential fatty acid, which means that your body cannot synthesize it. Therefore, it is mandatory to obtain this from the diet or from supplements. On the other hand, EPA and DHA (although also essential fatty acids) are obtained from the transformation of the ALA that we ingest. EPA and DHA are usually at very low levels in the organism, so supplementation is recommended.
Omega-3 is a fundamental component of cell membranes, necessary to maintain the integrity of cells and to facilitate their functioning. This is how a diet rich in foods that contain Omega-3 or that includes Omega- 3 supplements helps prevent or treat symptoms associated with a wide variety of conditions, including ADHD.
Benefits of Omega-3 in Children and Adults with ADHD
According to a meta-analysis, the benefits of Omega-3 fatty acid supplementation in individuals with ADHD include:
- A reduction in commission and omission errors (related to impulsiveness and inattention, respectively)
- Improvements in the child’s performance in daily activities at home (getting dressed, getting ready to go to school, getting ready to go to bed, eating in an organized way, among others)
- Better performance in reading activities
- Improvement in communication
- Intervention in the regulation of mood, thus preventing depression, anxiety, and shyness; favors in cases in which the cause is a deficiency of Omega-3 fatty acids, as well as in cases caused by inflammatory factors (Omega-3 has anti-inflammatory properties)
- Improvement in attention and executive functions by regulating dopamine levels in the synaptic cleft (space in which communication between two neurons takes place) since they are involved in the regulation of neurotransmission by being part of the vesicles that transport neurotransmitters to their site of action
What Dose of Omega-3 is Ideal in ADHD?
To date, numerous clinical trials have been carried out to identify the effects of Omega-3 consumption on symptoms associated with ADHD and to determine at what dose these effects are obtained.
According to the same meta-analysis cited above, the beneficial effects of Omega-3 on ADHD symptoms are evident when using doses equal to or greater than 500 mg/day.
In practice, some providers recommend using 500 mg/day in children under the age of 12 and 1000 mg/day in those over 12 years. As for adults, the recommended doses are usually between 1000–1500 mg/day. But you should talk to your doctor before starting the supplement to make sure it is right for you.
The effects of Omega-3 supplementation begin to be more evident after three to four months of daily use. It is important to consume the supplements and to promote a diet rich in oily fish, vegetable oils, nuts, or what is considered as a “Mediterranean-style diet.”
In conclusion, Omega-3 is a natural resource that may help regulate ADHD symptoms and is proven for people of all ages. It is not a pharmacological treatment but rather a complement to treatment or an alternative for those who do not want to use drugs.
Choosing to supplement your diet with Omega-3 fatty acids will not only bring benefits in controlling the symptoms associated with ADHD but will also bring plenty of benefits to your physical and mental health.