ADHD Medication and Treatment Reviews

Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Fish-oil supplements for EPA and DHA

What are Omega-3 fatty acids?

Omega-3 fatty acids, often delivered via fish oil, boost the body’s synthesis of dopamine, the neurotransmitter stymied by attention deficit disorder (ADHD). Fish oil supplements are also used to prevent heart disease and other ailments.

How does fish oil work?

The body doesn’t make omega-3s, so we must get these essential nutrients through food and/or supplementation. Scientists still don’t know the exact mechanism that makes omega-3s and other essential fatty acids improve brain functions. However, omega-3s are concentrated in the brain and essential for overall brain function, especially memory and cognition.

Before starting a fish oil regimen, speak with your physician, who has a holistic view of your or you or your child’s medical history, other diagnoses, and other prescriptions. If you have questions, ask your doctor or pharmacist before you begin the supplement.

Who is fish oil for?

Children and adults can take fish oil supplements for ADHD or for other health reasons.

Fish oil dosage recommendations vary widely for both children and adults. The study mentioned below used one gram per day for children, and the ratio of omega-3 fatty acids (EPA) to omega-6 fatty acids (DHA) was 4:1. ADHD expert Dr. Edward Hallowell typically recommends 2.5 grams of an omega-3 supplement for children each day, and up to 5 grams a day for adults. Because the recommendations vary so much, work closely with your doctor to devise a plan that works for you.

How much does fish oil cost?

The cost of fish oil supplements varies widely, depending on the brand and concentration of ingredients. You can expect to pay as little as $5 or as much as $50 for a 1-month supply, depending on which product you choose.

What studies have been done on fish oil?

A study published in Pediatrics, found a positive correlation between the use of fish oil and reduced symptoms of ADHD. “A lack of certain polyunsaturated fatty acids may contribute to dyslexia and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder,” reports one of the study’s authors, Paul Montgomery, D.Phil., a researcher in the psychiatry department at the University of Oxford in England.

For Montgomery’s study, schoolchildren were given fish oil supplements rich in omega-3 essential fatty acids (EFAs) for a period of three months. During this time, the children showed significant improvements in behavior, reading, and spelling.

Are there any side effects of taking fish oil?

The most common side effect of taking a fish oil supplement is belching (often referred to as “fish burps”) and bad breath. Other possible side effects of omega-3 supplementation include nausea, heartburn, diarrhea, rash, and nose bleeds.

Are there any precautions or interactions for omega-3s?

Avoid omega-3 supplements if you are allergic or sensitive to fish or products containing fish.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has deemed omega-3 fatty acids safe up to 3 grams a day. Doses over 3 grams have been known to keep the blood from clotting and to increase bleeding. High doses may also negatively impact immunity and make a patient more susceptible to infections. Fish oil can also impact blood glucose levels, so caution is advised for patients with diabetes or hypoglycemia. Also take caution if you have any of the following: lower blood pressure; hormone imbalance; changes in liver function; vitamin deficiency and/or toxicity; prostate cancer.

Before taking a fish oil or plant-derived omega-3 supplement, discuss all other active supplements and any prescription medications with your doctor. 

Sources:

http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/115/5/1360
http://www.mayoclinic.org/drugs-supplements/omega-3-fatty-acids-fish-oil-alpha-linolenic-acid/safety/hrb-20059372
http://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/fish-oil-friend-or-foe-201307126467
http://www.nps.org.au/medicines/complementary-medicines/for-individuals/fish-oil-supplements/for-individuals/side-effects

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