A new study published in the journal Translational Psychiatry has showed that omega-3 fish oil supplements can improve attention in some youths and children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Scientists at King’s College London in the United Kingdom and China Medical University in Taichung, Taiwan, examined the impact of omega-3 fish oil supplements on cognitive function in people with ADHD. The study involved a randomized controlled trial including 92 individuals with ADHD whose ages ranged from 6 to 18 years.

The participants were given high doses of omega-3 fatty acid eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) or a placebo for 12 weeks. The results revealed that out of all the individuals who received the supplement, those who had the lowest levels of EPA in their blood showed improvement in focused attention and vigilance. Whereas, those whose levels of EPA were normal or high showed no such improvements. The study also revealed some adverse effects of taking omega-3 supplements. A rise in impulsivity was exhibited by those participants who had high blood levels of EPA and took the supplement.

The researchers opine that these results indicate a need for psychiatrists to take a personalized medicine approach when treating individuals with ADHD.

According to Carmine M. Pariante, the study’s author and a professor in the Department of Psychological Medicine at King’s College London, “The omega-3 supplements only worked in children that had lower levels of EPA in their blood, as if the intervention was replenishing a lack of this important nutrient.”

However, Pariante and his colleagues warn that the findings should not be a reason for parents and carers to start giving youths or children omega-3 supplements without first consulting a doctor.

The results of this study add to those of earlier research by the same team that found that ADHD was more common in youths with omega-3 deficiency.

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