The new study supplemented 20 teenagers aged between 12 and 15 with omega-3 fish oils. Over 90 per cent of the teenagers, recruited from Greenfield Community Arts College in Newton Aycliffe, were assessed to have moderate to severe Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).
ADHD is thought to affect between three to seven per cent of children in the UK, with the problem continuing into adulthood for as many as 60 per cent of sufferers. Boys are reported to be three times more likely than girls to suffer from ADHD, according to the National Attention Deficit Disorder Information and Support Service (ADDISS).
The main behavioural traits include impulsiveness, inattentiveness and hyperactivity.
After three months of supplementation the teenagers' inattentiveness fell from an average of 94 at the start of the trial to a mere 17 per cent at the end. Similar impressive results were observed for impulsivity, with an initial rating of 89 per cent falling to 28 per cent after supplementation with omega 3 fatty acids.
Dr Madeleine Portwood, lead researcher and senior educational psychologist for Durham Council, told NutraIngredients.com that teenagers with persistent difficulties who had clinically diagnosed ADHD had specifically been recruited to participate in the trial.
The trial was open and that the participants were aware that they were taking the fish oils. The results are to be published in the book series Nutrition and Health.
The supplement, provided by Equazen Nutraceuticals, was derived from high-EPA marine fish oil and virgin evening primrose oil (GLA). The eyeq capsules formulation contained Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), Docosahexaenioc acid (DHA), GLA, and vitamin E.
Volunteers took six capsules per day, equal to 500 mg of EPA.
The mechanism behind the supplement's effect seems to be specific to the type of omega oil. (EPA) is proposed to function by increasing blood flow in the body. It is also suggested to affect hormones and the immune system, both of which have a direct effect on brain function.
Docosahexaenioc acid (DHA), on the other hand, is involved in the membrane of ion channels in the brain, making it easier for them to change shape and transit electrical signals.
This is not the first report of improvements in behaviour due to fish oil supplements. The work follows similar improvements due to omega-3 supplements for children aged 18 to 30 months, also reported by Portwood and colleagues.
Dr. Portwood also told NutraIngredients.com that further research using fish oils was due to be published in the future. One study involves the use of the supplements on the food intolerance of 80 autistic children, a group linked to increased incidence of food intolerance, as well as the results of the largest mainstream fish oil supplementation trial of 270 children.