Essential fatty acid deficiency higher in children with ADHD, Taiwan research reveals

By Gary Scattergood

- Last updated on GMT

Around 7-8% of children in Taiwan are thought to have ADHD. ©iStock
Around 7-8% of children in Taiwan are thought to have ADHD. ©iStock

Related tags Essential fatty acid Omega-3 fatty acid

Children with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) have been found to have a higher deficiency of essential fatty acids despite consuming similar amounts of omega-3 as those without the condition, research from Taiwan suggests.

Writing in the journal Clinical Psychological Science​, researchers from China Medical university said they recruited 21 children diagnosed with ADHD according to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders,​ and 21 non-ADHD controls.

“The n-3 intake and EFA deficiency severity were recorded while the children were assessed for inhibitory control, delay aversion, and temporal processing with the Go/No Go Task, Delayed Reaction Time Task, and Finger Tapping Task, respectively,”​ they state.

The ADHD group found to have more EFA deficiency symptoms and poorer performance in delay aversion and temporal processing tasks.

“The main findings of our study are that (a) the ADHD group had greater EFA deficiency severity than the TD group [despite] no differences in n-3 intake and (b) ADHD symptoms…correlated positively with EFA deficiency.”

When assessing why ADHD symptoms correlated negatively with omega-3 intake and positively with EFA deficiency, one explanation put forward was metabolic differences between the two groups.

“A possible explanation for a lack of differences of n-3 intake between two groups but more EFA deficiency symptoms in the ADHD group, may be due to the differences in n-3 PUFA metabolism between the two groups,”​ the researchers said.

“For example, children with ADHD may have either a higher metabolic rate of n-3 or a less efficient n-3 metabolic pathway than [the control] children, resulting in lower n-3 status and more EFA deficiency symptom presentations, despite the similar intake of n-3 in both groups.”

Core symptoms

They added that EFA deficiency has previously been shown to have a positive association with ADHD severity and delay aversion.

“Hence, EFA deficiency may play a role in the clinical manifestation and neurocognitive performance of children with ADHD,”​ they added.

Around 7-8% of children in Taiwan are thought to have ADHD.

The core symptoms include inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity and children with the condition tend to have impairments in daily activities, social interactions, and academic performance, the study notes.

The research concluded that further studies on omega-3 supplementation were now merited.

“Longitudinal studies of n-3 supplementation in children with ADHD focusing on the impact on clinical symptoms and neurocognitive performances will be needed to further support our findings,”​ they added.

We previosuly reported on a 2015 study from Unilever,​ which found a daily dose of the omega-3s DHA and EPA may improve attention in kids with and without attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD.

Source: Clinical Psychological Science

November 2016 vol. 4 no. 6 1094-1103

“Delay Aversion, Temporal Processing, and N-3 Fatty Acids Intake in Children With Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)”

Authors: Jane-Pei Chen Chang, et al.

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