“Omega 3 fatty acids are extremely important for neural development. We already know that nutritional supplements for children can lead to lower ADHD and conduct problems.”
Dr Edward Barker, King's College London
Benefits of Omega 3 fish oil for ADHD
With cases soaring as much as tenfold in some countries, chances are you’ll know someone who has Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. A condition marked by inattention, hyperactivity and impulsivity; Sir Richard Branson, Jamie Oliver and Emma Watson have all opened up about their struggles with the lack of focus ADHD can bring.
But while high-profile celebrities prove that the condition is not linked to either IQ or ability, if it’s your own son or daughter who’s among the five percent of UK children with ADHD, you’ll want to do all you can to help them.
Whether you plan to try medication or not, there are also some effective, natural ADHD treatments that are proven to help children pay better attention and generally improve their mood and behaviour.
Play, exercise and a diet low in sugar and processed foods are a great start to any balanced ADHD natural treatment plan. But most crucial of all is supplementing your child’s diets with a good fish oil for kids.
But what makes fish oil so effective when it comes to behaviour and what are the links between Omega 3 and ADHD?
What are the main Omega 3 benefits for ADHD?
Children with ADHD are known to have lower fatty acid levels in their blood compared to kids without the condition. That’s bad news, as the Omega 3 fatty acid DHA found in oily fish is one of the major building blocks of the brain and vital for its development. Improving a child’s levels of EFAs (essential fatty acids) has been shown to help manage ADHD symptoms, reducing both hyperactivity and impulsivity while improving concentration in both children and adults when compared to a placebo. Further studies show that children taking Omega 3 fish oil for ADHD are better able to synthesise dopamine, which is the way medications such as Ritalin help manage the condition.
And that’s not all. The second essential fatty acid in Omega 3, EPA, is anti-inflammatory, neuroprotective and can help signalling between brain cells to boost moods even more. According to research, published in the journal Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience, low intakes are linked to depression and even Alzheimer’s.
How does Omega 3 help with ADHD?
Fidgeting, lack of sleep, the kind of behaviour that attracts stares in the supermarket… parenting a child with ADHD has its challenges. But there are things you can do to help reduce the symptoms to leave you all feeling calmer and supplementing a child’s diet with a good fish oil for kids is one of them.
Numerous studies show that when children are given natural ADHD supplements such as fish oils, attention and behaviour improve, as does sleep. It also has a marked effect on brain power and concentration. According to an ADHD Omega 3 study published in 2017, children and adolescents with ADHD who were given Omega 3 supplements showed major improvements in both cognition and attention, while blood tests revealed they were lacking this important nutrient to begin with.
But how does Omega 3 help with ADHD? We need to take a closer look at the brain to find the answer. Over 60% of the human brain is fat and it uses essential fatty acids as building blocks for brain cells, as well as essential brain structures. Omega 3 is also thought to be such a good natural ADHD remedy because of its effect on neurotransmitters such as dopamine, the brain chemical responsible for concentration and focus. In both children and adults with ADHD, neurotransmitters fail to relay signals between nerve cells. And the main structural component of nerve cells? Omega 3 fatty acids.
In ADHD, nerve cells lack Omega 3, which stops dopamine from being able to move between them. In fact, this is the main way that ADHD medications help the condition, by allowing dopamine to be pushed across the cells so focus is improved.
“Our review clearly showed that improving children’s intakes of Omega 3 had a marked beneficial effect on reading ability, spelling, behaviour and attention. Conversely, these fatty acid supplements helped lower hyperactivity and aggression which would tend to put children in a better frame of mind to learn.”Dr Emma Derbyshire
Can Omega 3 help children with ADHD at school?
Along with improving focus and attention, a recent report has shown that a diet rich in Omega 3 boosted the spelling and reading abilities of children with ADHD.
Using the results from 29 random controlled trials all published in the last five years, the Journal of Nutrition and Food Sciences study found that more than 3,000 children given Omega 3 supplements experienced major improvements when it came to their learning. And children with ADHD showed the most improvement of all.
What is the best Omega 3 for kids with ADHD?
The best Omega 3 for kids with ADHD is one that contains high amounts of DHA. The DHA found in Omega 3 fish oil is used by the brain in preference to any other fatty acids. When the brain doesn’t have a good supply of DHA, it will turn to other fats to help it develop and grow - but it doesn’t do this very well. That’s why children need DHA and they can only get it from their diet.
The best source of Omega 3 for kids with ADHD is oily fish like salmon and mackerel and the recommended amount for all children is 140g per week. But our kids just aren’t getting enough. According to the latest National Diet and Nutrition survey, they're averaging just 18g per week - an eighth of what they should be eating for essential brain development.
How much Omega 3 for ADHD should a child be taking?
When it comes to Omega 3 dosage for ADHD, a study published in Neuropsychopharmacology showed the positive effect of a dosage of 480mg of DHA on cognition, behaviour and mood. This is the same Omega 3 dosage in a 1ml serving of Bare Biology’s Super Hero.
"DHA is a safe & effective way to improve the reading and behaviour in healthy, but underperforming children."Dolab study
When should children start taking a fish oil for kids?
DHA is vital for brain health throughout all stages of life. It’s even had promising benefits on preventing conditions such as dementia as we age. But in children it’s vital, especially when you consider the most important brain growth is completed by six years of age. While there’s no research that says fish oil for toddlers can help prevent ADHD, essential fats are proven to help your toddler's brain and sight to develop.
Is fish oil safe for kids with ADHD?
Omega 3 fish oil supplements are safe for children to take, but if your child is under 12, it’s best to buy one that’s formulated for kids and one that publishes its test results so you know it’s fresh, safe and pure.
Bare Biology’s Super Hero fish oil for kids is suitable for children from six months. Every batch is certified and awarded a 5-star purity and quality rating from International Fish Oil Standards (IFOS).
What about Omega 3 for ADHD in adults?
Although we normally talk about ADHD in children, the condition also occurs in approximately one in 20 adults. If you feel like you suffer from a lack of focus or worry about your ability to get organised, it’s well worth going to your GP to ask for a test.
If you’ve been recently diagnosed, you’ll be pleased to hear that studies have confirmed that Omega 3 fish oils can benefit adults with ADHD. A 2005 study of 26 adults with ADHD who took Omega 3 supplements experienced less negative mood states and were more able to concentrate.
According to a 2018 study published in the British Medical Journal and led by academics at the University of Nottingham, getting diagnosed as an adult is vital. Dr Vibhore Prasad who led the research said: “ADHD in adulthood can seriously affect employment and independence, family life and relationships. Accurate and timely diagnosis of the condition is crucial because it can be treated using medication or therapy or a combination of both. This can make a real and practical difference to people with ADHD and families.“
The men were given 1,600mg EPA combined with 800mg DHA for 35 days. Our Bare Biology clinical strength Lion Heart has 2,000mg EPA and 1,000mg DHA in just one 5ml teaspoon.
So can Omega 3 cure ADHD?
While adding Omega 3 fatty acids to your child’s diet might not cure their ADHD altogether, studies show that it can reduce symptoms significantly, to leave you all feeling calmer. Along with behavioural strategies, exercise and an improved diet overall, it’s certainly a natural tool worthy of its place in any balanced ADHD treatment plan.
Just remember that while you may see an improvement over time, these changes won’t happen overnight, as the body can take more than three months to build up its stores of this important nutrient. According to a report published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, while optimal blood levels of Omega 3 may be reached in about one month (if you remember to take it every day), it takes even longer for levels to improve in the brain. Even in rats, levels of Omega 3 in the brain, heart and liver only reached equilibrium after three months of taking fish oil.
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