ADHD and Fish Oil Supplements: What's a Safe Dosage?

Q:

"My child was recently diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and I want to start omega-3 fatty acid supplements. What is a safe omega-3 dosage that will also help treat the ADD/ADHD symptoms?"

A:

ADDitude Answers

Studies have yet to determine an optimum dosage of omega-3s, or fish oil, in children or adults with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). I would recommend children four to six years of age start with a daily supplement of 500 mg of omega-3s; children seven years and older, 1000 mg. In both cases, I recommend a supplement that has equal amounts of DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) and EPA (eicosapentaeic acid). Talk with your health care provider to discover the optimum dosage for your child.

Although one Japanese study gave children very high amounts of omega-3s that resulted in improved ADHD symptoms, the FDA recommends taking no more than 3000 mg a day. Even then, talk with your doctor before increasing omega-3 intake to that level.

Note: ADDitude does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. The material on this website is provided for educational purposes only. See additional information. While comments are appreciated, due to the high volume of inquiries we receive, there is no guarantee that either ADDitude or the expert will respond to follow-up questions.

Posted by Sandy Newmark, M.D.
Author of ADHD Without Drugs: A Guide to Natural Care of Children with ADHD and a Clinical Professor at the University of California, San Francisco


A Reader Answers

Our kids take over 300 mg a day of DHA (liquid) and over 600 mg of total Omega-3

They also take GABA and 5-HTP

Posted by Laurie


A Reader Answers

My son’s neurologist told us we could give any where from 2,000mg (2g) to 15,000mg (15g) when he was 7 years old. He is 9 now and takes 8g a day, split between morning and evening. He can swallow just about anything but I still try to keep the size manageable. Some of the fish oil gel caps are huge!

Posted by Tigger's Mom


A Reader Answers

Our pediatrician recommended 1000mg per day of Omega 3’s. We use Karlson for Kids liquid and I give it to both of my children with breakfast everyday. I would not use more than that as it can affect their coagulation and cause bleeding in higher dosing.

Posted by LisaVRN


A Reader Answers

I give my son, who is 8, about 640 mg a day of Omega 3’s. It’s a 3:2 EPA to DHA ratio. The supplement is by Nordic Naturals and is called Ultimate Omega Junior. He has been doing well on it. I’ve given him higher doses before, up to 1000mg to 1200 mg, but he seemed to be irritable and somewhat agitated with the higher doses.

So, keep an eye out for this as you increase. I actually didn’t realize this could be an issue and was looking for other causes of his irritability. When someone else suggested that it could be the higher dose, I decreased it and he was a lot better. I guess it just depends on the kiddo.

Posted by JS


A Reader Answers

My son’s doctor recommends Omega 3 fatty acids with a ratio of twice as much DHA as ARA. Minami has one called More EPA. There is an adult version and a kid version. We give one adult or two kid softgels per day.

Posted by SueH


A Reader Answers

Our son’s doctor says there’s not a specific recommended dose, but just what works for the individual. Start out small, and then increase a little at at time. Some say it takes about 3 weeks to see results, so maybe try a dose for a month at a time. Then do a challenge study.

It might not be just the Omega-3s, but more the ratio of Omega-3s to Omega-6s. I’ve heard a 1:1 ratio is ideal (typical diets range from 10 - 20 Omega-6 to 1 Omega-3). Even if my son is taking his regular dose of fish oil, if he ends up eating more “bad fat” foods (lots of butter, pizza, fried foods, etc.), his symptoms are worse. (By the way, don’t underestimate the role of fiber!)

He likes the Bioglan Kids Smart fish oil found at RiteAid or Amazon.

Posted by Stephanne


This question was asked on the ADDConnect forums. Read the original discussion here.


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Sandy Newmark, M.D., is the head of the Pediatric Integrative Neurodevelopmental Program at the Osher Center for Integrative Medicine where he specializes in the treatment of autism, ADHD, and other developmental or chronic childhood conditions. He is author of ADHD Without Drugs: A Guide to Natural Care of Children with ADHD and a Clinical Professor at the University of California, San Francisco.
 
 
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