ADD/ADHD –The Link to EFAs
It is well known that a diet providing a balance of nutrients is essential for the maintenance of good health. Nutritional deficiencies during the prenatal period and in early childhood may be responsible for the development of ADD/ADHD later in life. Studies show a deficiency of EFAs and trace minerals in patients with hyperactivity and ADD. EFAs are an important part of a balanced diet and essential for the normal growth and functioning of the brain.
EFAs participate in the generation of messenger molecules (neurons) responsible for the action of various hormones and enzymes and have a vital role in cell to cell communication in the brain. With the absence of these fats, neurons “short out” and their communications do not arrive at their intended destination, thus causing symptoms of disorders like ADD/ADHD.
EFAs such as DHA may also improve learning by increasing acetylcholine levels in the hippocampus, an area of the brain involved in learning and memory.
Researchers such as L.J. Stevens et al. helped establish the link between fatty acid deficiency and behavioral and learning disorders. Some of his research, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, suggested that altered fatty acid metabolism was a key contributor to the nutritional deficiencies they discovered in children with ADHD.
In this study 53 participants with ADHD had lower concentrations of EFAs in their blood cells than the 43 controls. In addition, 21 ADHD participants also had many symptoms of fatty acid deficiency associated with lower blood EFA concentrations. The same researchers continued their studies on young boys with learning disorders.
They found a greater number of behavioral problems, temper tantrums, learning disorders, and sleep difficulties in the participants with lower total blood omega-3 concentrations. The reason for this EFA deficiency in this group of people is unknown. Some researchers believe that a fatty acid nutritional deficiency and/or a conversion problem may exist among children who have learning disorders such as ADHD and dyslexia.
A recent study by Richardson and Puri, published in Progress in Neuro Psychopharmacology & Biological Psychiatry in 2002, studied the effects of EFAs on ADHD-related symptoms in children with specific learning disabilities (mainly dyslexia). Forty-one children aged 8-12 years with both specific learning difficulties and above average ADHD ratings were randomly allocated to the EFA supplementation group or a placebo for 12 weeks. After 12 weeks of EFA supplementation, significantly lower cognitive and behavioral problems were noted compared to the placebo group.
The researchers concluded that EFA supplementation appears to reduce ADHD-related symptoms in children with dyslexia.
Currently, British school children with learning difficulties are taking part in a major trial to see if EFAs from both plant and fish sources can help raise their learning and concentration levels. A total of 120 children aged 6 to 11 with dyslexia, dyspraxia, ADHD and autism are being studied.
The researchers feel that the significant dietary changes that took place over the last 20 years (reduction of “good” fats in the diet) are responsible for the increase – by as many as four to five times – in the number of children being diagnosed with these conditions.
EFAs – The Answer?
The researchers expect to see a significant improvement in the children’s learning abilities following EFA supplementation. The studies described show that there may be some value in providing EFAs to children with ADHD and specific learning disabilities. Further clinical studies are in progress to confirm the value of EFA supplementation for learning disorders.
Although the diagnoses of ADD/ADHD are on the rise, it is comforting to know there may be a natural alternative to drug therapy for our children. It is important to choose supplements that contain both omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids for optimal health benefits such as Nutripur’s GENIUS Kids and Teens formula.
Clinical research has shown improvements with 500 mg of DHA and 200 mg of EPA, but the dosage will depend upon the child’s age, size and severity of the disorder.
EFA supplementation can be a viable option for some children with these difficult-to-manage disorders. Combating the symptoms of ADD/ADHD gives these children a new lease on life – new hope and the self-esteem needed to be successful in today’s world.
Please consult your health care provider for additional information on EFAs before beginning a new treatment regime or before discontinuing the use of ADD/ADHD medication.