A new study has revealed that high doses of Omega-3 oils work as well or even better in improving attention and vigilance for some children diagnosed with ADHD than psychoactive medications. The double-blind placebo-controlled study noted that this effect occurs only in those children who started the study with lower levels of EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid – one of the Omega-3 fatty acids) as determined by a blood test. In kids with normal EPA levels there was no improvement, and in kids with above average EPA levels, the Omega-3 supplements actually caused an increase in impulsivity.
The study suggests a couple of things. First, that we may be moving toward a more ”personalized” form of treatment for ADHD-diagnosed kids. This of course makes sense. Every child possesses a certain degree of biochemical individuality, and thus what works for one child may not work for another. The second point is that ADHD medications are not the be-all and end-all solution to some kids symptoms. And given the fact that ADHD medications often have negative side effects (some of them serious), it makes sense to look for alternatives if available. Of course, parents should not give their kids Omega-3 oil supplements before talking with their child’s doctor about the advisability of doing so (and a blood test for EPA levels can help determine if this approach is right for your child).
This study, while based on supplements alone, raises the possibility that giving kids foods with high levels of Omega-3 may also help to some degree with certain kids (the study does not suggest this, however).
Such foods include:
- Fish and other seafood (especially cold-water fatty fish, such as salmon, mackerel, tuna, herring, and sardines)
- Nuts and seeds (such as flaxseed, chia seeds, and walnuts)
- Plant oils (such as flaxseed oil, soybean oil, and canola oil)
In addition, some foods come fortified with Omega-3 oils, such as certain brands of eggs, yogurt, juices, milk, and soy beverages. Since these foods make up part of a healthy diet for everybody, building them into your child’s daily eating schedule appears to be a reasonable intervention.
For more information on alternatives to ADHD medications (including adding foods high in Omega-3 oils to the diet), read my book, The Myth of the ADHD Child: 101 Ways to Improve Your Child’s Behavior and Attention Span Without Drugs, Labels, or Coercion.
This post was brought to you by: Thomas Armstrong, Ph.D. and www.institute4learning.com.
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