Omega 3s and ADHD: What You Need to Know

This article will tie together the connection between low levels of DHA, the active ingrediant in Omega 3, in ADD and ADHD children in comparison to that of normal children not afflicted by this condition. That sounds like a mouthful of letters and may sound confusing however, this article will help make it easy to understand and may be the simple answer we’re looking for. This connection between omega-3 fatty acid deficiency and ADHD has been confirmed by studies…

The little kid who won’t sit still. The middle school student who has a hard time concentrating in class. The teenager who acts out.

While some of these characterizations might seem like mere growing pains, more and more researchers look at these as signs to a much larger – and much more preventable – problem: Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity Disorder.

What is ADHD?
Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a common developmental and behavioral disorder characterized by poor concentration, distractibility, hyperactivity, and impulsiveness that are inappropriate for the child’s age.

Children and adults with ADHD are easily distracted by sights and sounds in their environment, cannot concentrate for long periods of time, are restless and impulsive, or have a tendency to daydream and be slow to complete tasks.

While ADHD has long been associated with children’s academic progress, the issues are more far-reaching. Researchers at the University of California, Berkley found that girls dealing with ADHD are “at greater risk” of abusing drugs and alcohol and having emotional problems, in addition to academic difficulties.

“The cumulative picture is that girls with ADHD are at risk for a lot of problems,” said psychologist Stephen P. Hinshaw, lead author of the study and chairman of the psychology department at Berkeley.

Children living with the disorder cope with the stigma of being labeled as hyper, lazy, unmotivated and unfocused by adults who don’t understand the problems these children must deal with. Worse yet, many of these children and their parents are told their only solution – their only chance to regain some normalcy – is to take medication on a daily basis.

The Omega 3 Connection
Research continues to suggest that omega 3 fatty acids – those essential building blocks that doctors have been recommending to adults for years – can help curb the onset and development of this disorder in children.

The connection between omega-3 fatty acid deficiency and ADHD has been confirmed by studies in which youngsters with ADHD, when compared with non-ADHD children, had much lower blood levels of docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), an omega-3 fatty acid necessary for normal function of the eyes and the cerebral cortex (the brain region that handles higher functions such as reasoning and memory).

One such study, conducted at the University of South Australia, called the use of omega 3s more effective than the commonly-prescribed ADHD drug Ritalin.

“Supplementation with [omega-3 fatty acids] resulted in significant improvements … of core ADHD-related behavioural and cognitive difficulties, namely inattention, hyperactivity and impulsivity, with medium to large effect sizes, and also in ratings of oppositional behaviour,” the report stated. “There is no known evidence that medication provides any benefits beyond four weeks, whereas in the present trial symptoms continued to improve after 15 weeks of supplementation.”

It is estimated that as many as 10% of U.S. children have attention-deficit problems, which includes ADHD and hyperactivity. Despite this, most people get just one-fifth the amount of omega 3s – either from oily fish or other sources – recommended.

So what should parents do? First, pregnant women should make sure they are receiving enough omega 3s to help with the development of their unborn child. Post-pregnancy, parents should make sure their child receives adequate amounts of omega 3s, whether from natural sources (fish, walnuts, etc.) or from supplementation.

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