Are fatty acid supplements the magic bullet for ADHD? Judging from recent sales at vitamin counters, that's what lots of people think.
It all started when J. Burgess, Ph.D., a Purdue University researcher, discovered that children with ADHD frequently have much lower blood levels of DHA than normal. DHA is an omega-3 fatty acid found in fish. It is also formed by the body from alpha linolenic acid, which is found in vegetable oils such as soy, canola, and flax oil.
ADHD adults and parents across the country reasoned that if DHA is lacking in the bloodstream, then adding more to the diet is bound to help. This kind of thinking may partly explain why the rush is on for omega-3 fatty acid supplements.
A Word of Warning
Why Top Experts Recommend Against Treating ADHD With Fatty Acid Supplements:
- Supplements have not been demonstrated to work on AD/HD symptoms
- Supplements may not increase fatty acid levels in the AD/HD brain
- People diagnosed with AD/HD may be too old to benefit from Fatty Acid interventions
- Supplements could cause health problems by creating a Fatty Acid imbalance
What Does Work
- Years of consistent effort, by parents and diagnosed adults
- For parents, unpressured quality time with your kids
- Identifying and build on ADHD strengths
- Teaching ADHDers to own their behavior and providing them with helpful behavioral strategies
- Undertaking a caring and consistent positive discipline program
- Following safe and sound accepted medical practice
Teresa Gallagher swears by it. The creator of the popular Born to Explore web site and mother of a first-grade boy whom she says may have ADD believes flax oil supplements are partly responsible for his excellent behavior and above-average reading skills, though "we'll never know it for sure."
"I believe the single most important thing you can do for your child's diet is to add a tablespoon of high quality flax oil once a day," Gallagher tells readers on her ADD site.
Gallagher is not alone. Barlean's Flax Oil company spokesman Jerry Gillian says he constantly gets letters and email from customers who use the product to treat ADHD. But, says Gillian, "Barlean's cannot endorse the use of flax oil to treat any medical condition based on restrictions put forth by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration."