Food and Behaviour Research

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Omega-3 fatty acid and ADHD: blood level analysis and meta-analytic extension of supplementation trials.

Hawkey E, Nigg JT. (2014) Clin Psychol Rev  34(6): 496-505. Epub 2014 Jun 2. 

Web URL: View this and related abstracts via PubMed here. Free full text of this article is available online


Interest in the value of omega-3 (n-3) fatty acid supplementation for treatment of ADHD remains high. No prior meta-analysis has examined whether ADHD is associated with alterations in blood lipid levels and meta-analyses of supplementation have reached conflicting conclusions.


We report two new meta-analyses. Study 1 examined blood levels of omega-3 fatty acids in relation to ADHD. Study 2 examined a larger sample of randomized intervention trials than previously reported.


Study 1 included 9 studies (n=586) and found lower overall blood levels of n-3 in individuals with ADHD versus controls (g=0.42, 95% CI=0.26-0.59; p<.001). Study 2 included 16 studies (n=1408) and found that n-3 supplementation improved ADHD composite symptoms; using the best available rating and reporter (g=0.26, 95% CI=0.15-0.37; p<.001). Supplementation showed reliable effects on hyperactivity by parent and teacher report, but reliable effects for inattention only by parent report.


Omega-3 levels are reduced in children with ADHD. Dietary supplementation appears to create modest improvements in symptoms. There is sufficient evidence to consider omega-3 fatty acids as a possible supplement to established therapies. However it remains unclear whether such intervention should be confined to children with below normal blood levels.


This study includes two separate meta-analyses, which both support and extend existing findings from research into omega-3 fatty acids and ADHD.

First, these researchers reviewed existing studies of blood fatty acids in ADHD, and confirmed that blood concentrations of long-chain omega-3 are significantly reduced in individuals with ADHD vs matched controls.

The second meta-analysis involved randomised controlled trials of dietary supplementation with omega-3, confirming and extending findings from a previous meta-analysis (Bloch and Qawasmi 2011) which also found that supplementation with EPA/DHA is effective in reducing ADHD symptoms.

For more news and research articles on the subject of ADHD and omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids, please see the following lists, which are regularly updated: