Attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is the most common neuro-developmental disorder in childhood. Its pharmacologic treatment mostly includes methylphenidate, yet many parents seek alternative, "natural," therapeutic options, commonly omega-3 fatty acids. Previous studies of supplementation with fish oil or long-chain omega-3 fatty acids to children with ADHD yielded mixed results. The use of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), a medium-chained, plant-based omega-3 fatty acid (18:3 n-3), has not been sufficiently examined in this population.

Forty untreated children with ADHD, aged 6-16 years, were randomized to receive either 2 g/day of oil containing 1 g ALA or placebo, for 8 weeks. Before and after supplementation, the children underwent a physician assessment of ADHD symptoms and a computerized continuous performance functions test. The children's parents and teachers filled out Conners' and DSM questionnaires.

Seventeen (42.5%) children completed the study, eight in the supplementation group, nine in the placebo group. Main drop-out reasons were capsule size, poor compliance, and a sense of lack of effect. No significant difference was found in any of the measured variables tested before and after supplementation, in both study groups. No between-group difference was found in the changes of the various measures of ADHD symptoms throughout the study period.

Supplementation of 2 g/day of oil containing 1 g ALA did not significantly reduce symptoms in children with ADHD. Future studies in this field should consider an alternative method to deliver the oil, a higher dose, and a larger sample size.

PMID: 25339885

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