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What are the Effects of Fish Oil on ADHD?

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  • Written By: Sarah Kay Moll
  • Edited By: Heather Bailey
  • Last Modified Date: 12 November 2016
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Fish oil is a supplement derived from oily fish, rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which have many health benefits. Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a disorder characterized by inattentive and hyperactive or impulsive behaviors that are severe enough to interfere with daily cognitive and behavioral tasks. The effects of fish oil on ADHD have been shown in some studies to reduce the cognitive and behavioral symptoms of ADHD. Fish oil also has other health benefits, and can improve other psychological disorders such as depression.

Children with ADHD may show inattentive behaviors such as daydreaming in class, difficulty following instructors or difficulty having a long conversation. They may also have hyperactive and impulsive behaviors such as shouting out the answer to a question before being called on or frequently interrupting others. To diagnose ADHD, these symptoms must be present across different situations, such as at home and at school.

The cause of ADHD is unknown, however, there is some evidence that brain function may be different in people with ADHD. Exposure to toxins through the environment or prenatally as a result of a mother’s smoking or alcohol intake may also play a role. Some studies have hypothesized that deficiencies in fatty acids such as the ones found in fish oil may also play a role in ADHD. This may be why the effect of fish oil on ADHD is beneficial.

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Small studies have shown the effects of fish oil on ADHD can reduce hyperactive and inattentive behaviors and also help with scholastic problems. Larger placebo-controlled studies are necessary to draw a firm conclusion about the beneficial effects of fish oil on ADHD. Fish oil supplements are relatively harmless and have few side effects, making them an attractive supplement to a treatment plan.

The effects of fish oil on ADHD do not cure the disorder. Fish oil is not a substitution for medical and psychological care. Children with ADHD do best when they are treated with both medications and psychotherapy. The most common medications for ADHD are stimulants, which actually seem to calm hyperactive children. Psychotherapy can help children change their behavior and develop healthy relationships. School interventions can help if a child is struggling scholastically.

The use of fish oil for psychological disorders is not new. Fish oil has been helpful in treating symptoms of depression and anxiety disorders. It also improves cardiovascular health and can help prevent Alzheimer’s disease.

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