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Tijdschrift voor Psychiatrie 52 (2010) 2, 89 - 97

Review article

Omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids in the treatment of children and adolescents with ADHD

A. Aben, M. Danckaerts

There is a growing trend towards the use of alternative forms of treatment for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (adhd), such as the food supplements omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids.
aim To study biochemical aspects, important hypotheses regarding the role of these fatty acids in brain development, the mode of operation and research results concerning the effectiveness of treating adhd with these supplements.
method A Medline search was performed using the Mesh-term 'fatty acids' and the search terms 'omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids' and 'attention deficit hyperactivity disorder'.
results Some rct's (randomised controlled trails) involving children with adhd didn't show any improvement after treatment with omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. Some other rct's, however, did show a reduction in adhd symptoms and learning difficulties, but the children concerned had not been officially diagnosed with adhd. A recent rct showed a substantial reduction in adhd symptoms in children with the inattentive type of adhd and in children with adhd and comorbid problems.
conclusion There are indications that there is a theoretical rationale for the effectiveness of fatty acids in the treatment of adhd; research is ongoing. At the moment, however, treatment of adhd with omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids is not recommended because it does not qualify as being evidence-based.

keywords attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, omega-3 fatty acids, omega-6 fatty acids, polysaturated fatty acids