Researchers first linked ADHD to essential fatty acid deficiency in the early 1980s, and recent years have seen an unprecedented rise in autism and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Since our nerves and brain are composed primarily of fats, poor omega-3 fatty acid status can alter neurotransmitter function and inhibit brain performance on many levels. This deficiency has a greater impact on males because their requirements for essential fatty acids are, in general, much higher (and one reason why autism occurs more frequently in boys).
Brain and nerve growth throughout childhood is extraordinarily rapid, and the need for omega-3 fatty acids remains critical all the way through adolescence and into adulthood. The brain can actually create nerve pathways in response to new experiences and learning environments. Called “neuronal plasticity,” this phenomenon is crucial for long-term memory and learning. Adequate levels of the omega-3 fatty acid, DHA (docosahexaenoic acid), are needed for this to occur.
The ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids (both types differ in structure and function) also affects neuronal plasticity. Scientists now agree that this ratio is just as important as the actual levels of each, especially in autism and ADHD. A lower ratio is better and when this ratio is improved, symptoms of autism and ADHD often improve.
Stimulant drugs such as Ritalin are commonly prescribed for ADHD, but studies show that supplements can be equally effective in treating symptoms of ADHD. An Oxford University study demonstrated that fatty acid supplementation for three months to children struggling with ADHD resulted in improvements in reading, spelling and behavior; these results were not observed in the placebo group. Following administration of the same supplements to the placebo group in the study as a second part of this trial, the same improvements were eventually observed.
Discover whether your child has an essential fatty acid deficiency and learn how our solutions can aid in treating symptoms of ADHD and Autism.