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Link between Omega 3 and ADHD/ADD, Part 2

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Omega Fatty Acids Help ADHD Kids
In a 1981 study, reported in the journal Medical Hypothesis, a large number of hyperactive children showed deficiencies in essential fatty acids. That particular study revealed that boys have a three times higher need for the essential fatty acids than the girls. This might be one explanation for the larger number of boys experiencing difficulties in various areas of learning and behavior.


Omega Fatty Acids Important for Learning and Behavior
A study by Stevens, et al, I 1996 found that boys aged six to twelve, with low levels of fatty acids had a greater number of behavioral problems, temper tantrums, sleep problems, and learning problem than their peers. Some researchers believe that a fatty acid nutritional deficiency and/or conversion problem may exist among children who have learning disorders such as ADHD and dyslexia.


Omega Fatty Acids Improve ADHD-related symptoms
A recent study by Richardson and Puri, published in Progress in Neuro Psychopharmacolgy & Biological Psychiatry in 2002, studied children aged eight to twelve years old with both specific learning disabilities (mainly dyslexia) and noted significantly lower cognitive and behavioral problems with the EFA supplementation group after twelve weeks. The researchers concluded that EFA supplementation appears to reduce ADHD symptoms in children with dyslexia.


Omega Fatty Acids Help DCD Kids Behave
Researchers at Oxford University noted that children suffering from Developmental Coordination Disorder (DCD) showed a significant improvement in behavior, reading, and spelling with the first three months of fatty acid supplementation. The researchers feel that significant dietary changes that have taken place over the last 20 years (reduction of “good” fats in the diet) are responsible for the increase of children being diagnosed with this condition.


Omega Fatty Acids Improving Language and Behavior in Children
In 2005 a Middlesborough trial was run at eight schools throughout the 2005 academic year. Three months into the trial, children who were already functioning well above their average, continued to improve. For example, an eight year old reading at a thirteen year level, was reading at a seventeen year level according to Dr. Portwood. Researchers wanted to see how fatty acid supplementation would work in a more general school population and with a larger group. Certainly the trend was suggesting that children of all ages were achieving their full potential. The research will submit a complete report on the 6-month data to a peer-reviewed scientific journal.


Fish Oil Improves Pre-School Learning Skills
A 2005 Durham pre-school study of sixty-five children aged between twenty months and three years, taking fish oil daily reported great benefits in concentration, behavioral and parental bonding during the initial five months of this year long study. Researchers, noting that increasing numbers of children are showing unruly behavior before entering primary schools, wanted to see how well youngsters would tolerate the oils, and see if there could be benefits at a crucial time of brain development.


Growing Consensus
With fish consumption at historically low levels, the growing consensus is that it is essential to supplement the daily diet to ensure a healthy level of omega-3 fats. What’s more, new evidence is showing which components of the fish oil are most important. For several years, researchers believed that the DHA was the most important fatty acid, as it is found in the structure of the brain. Increasingly, however, evidence points to the EPA, as playing a greater role in brain development and function. “EPA improves blood-flow to the brain, but it also helps to manufacture hormones that boost brain function—and, probably most importantly, acts as a natural anti-inflammatory agent, boosting the immune system,” says Dr. Alex Richardson.


Green leafy vegetables, along with flaxseed and walnut oil, and fortified eggs, contain small amounts of a simpler omega-3 fat—a vegetarian source of EPA, but an inefficient one. By far, the best source of EPA is oily fish such as mackerel, salmon, pilchards, anchovies, herring, sardines, and tuna—fish that are challenging tastes for many youngsters. Sadly canned tuna is significantly, though not entirely defatted in the canning process. Dr. Richardson recommends always getting enough nutrients from diet as far as possible.


Where supplements are needed, you should choose products clearly marked as marine oil with higher levels of EPA than DHA. All the trials have been conducted using pharmaceutical grade marine oil high in EPA and low in DHA. These levels vary drastically from those normally found in oils such as standard fish oils and cod liver oil. Dr. Richardson’s Durham Trial was conducted with a marine oil that contained 70 percent omega-3 fatty and 75 milligrams EPA in each 500 milligrams capsule; the children were required to take six capsules each day. Dr. Richardson’s latest trials were conducted with a marine oil that contained 78 percents omega-3 fatty acids and 240 milligrams EPA in each 500 milligrams capsule. This reduced the children’s requirement from six to only two.

We are not talking about the Omega3’s you can get at grocery stores or big box stores that are 27–40 percent Omega 3 we are talking high grade 75–85 percent pure that are difficult to find. The labels on most are misleading and should be read like this: Add the EPADHA up to find out the total. If they add up to 300 and you have a 1000 milliliters capsule, then it is 30 percent good Omega and 70 fillers.  Some companies out there mislead you and tell you it is 80 percent pure but they use 2000 milliliters base so in reality it is 40 percent.

Finally, it must be emphasized that factors other than highly unsaturated fatty acids (HUFA) should always be considered in the nutritional management of behavioral and learning difficulties. An adequate supply of other essential micronutrients is crucial, and many—such as zinc—are likely to have interactive effects on fatty acid metabolism. So although fatty acid deficiency is cited as the single most important factor, various vitamin and mineral deficiencies should be identified and corrected.


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