The Use of Supplements in the Treatment of ADHD
When it comes to diet and nutrition there seems to be no shortage of controversial topics. Whether it is vegetarian or weight loss diets, antioxidants, vitamin D deficiency or a dozen of other issues, there is plenty of heated debate about what we should all be doing to improve our health. One of the ideas viewed with high degree of scepticism is the opinion that what we eat can affect the brain, and as a result, various aspects of our wellbeing such as our behaviour or mood.
It sounds entirely plausible that an organ as metabolically active as the brain needs an appropriate supply of nutrients to work well and there is enough evidence to back that up. One of the more controversial aspects is the extent to which nutrition can affect children’s behaviour and more specifically what role it may play in Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). Although many parents of children with ADHD believe that what their children eat can affect their behaviour, most experts seem to readily dismiss this theory as pure quackery. However, one research recently published in the Journal of Child Neurology found supplementation with the omega-3 fish oil EPA, along with a small amount of the omega-6 fat GLA to be beneficial in improving certain aspects of ADHD in children who were resistant to standard treatment.
This finding may not sound surprising to many of us and it adds to small but intriguing body of evidence suggesting that omega-3 fish oil supplementation may benefit some children with ADHD. The important but mostly overlooked part of this nutritional puzzle is the fact that it is only a specific component of fish oil that seems to be effective. Omega-3 fish oil contains two main types of omega-3 fats, EPA and DHA, and it is the EPA that is likely to be effective, not the DHA. This assumption also holds true when examining the role of fish oil supplementation in depression, where once again, EPA shows great potential for benefit, whereas DHA appears to be ineffective. Hence, it is a shame that indiscriminate use of fish oil supplements gives no regard to this key fact, yielding inconsistent and often disappointing results.
Though the role of EPA in ADHD is probably the most plausible and well-researched, there are also other dietary candidates that have received their fair share of attention, whether it is some children reacting badly to artificial additives, deficiencies of key minerals such as magnesium, zinc or iron, or the high glycaemic index sugar-laden diets that most parents find to blame. Whilst research in this field is scarce, it is an area that deserves more consideration. The opportunity to use EPA as a safe, effective and natural therapy for children with ADHD, in order to reduce their need for potent prescription drugs or improve the effectiveness of those drugs, warrants more of our attention.