Why Kids With ADHD (Especially!) Need Omega-3s
Nutrition feeds the brain as well as the body. You already know what you eat matters. When you have proper balanced nutrition, you operate at your best. The right fuel provides you with energy, focus and so much more.
Among those with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) the brain has even more unique physiological needs. Omega-3s have been touted as an important piece in the puzzle of managing ADHD. But why is it so important, particularly to those with ADHD or other neurological challenges?
The Make-Up of the Brain
First things first: fat is not bad. It’s a very necessary component of the body and brain and a requirement in our diets. But getting the right kinds of fat is critical.
Sixty percent of the brain is comprised of fat. So, it’s a no-brainer that we need to consume healthy fats for our brains to function properly. Essential fats are those that our body needs, but cannot produce. So, we must consume them. Essential fatty acids such as DHA and EPA are two of the most important building blocks of fat.
Without these building blocks, the brain suffers.
- Fewer synapses (bridges between neurons)
- Outer membrane of neurons degenerates
- Mood-stabilizing chemicals such as serotonin and dopamine are lower
Omegas 6s and 3s: What’s the Right Ratio?
There are two subgroups of essential fatty acids that the body and brain need to function at optimal levels: Omega-3s and Omega-6s.
The ratio, as well as the sources, of these fats is critical.
Omega-6s are found in oils, such as corn oil, grapeseed oil, soybean and sesame oil. Omega-6s, in proper amounts, can protect the body by:
- Supporting bone health
- Lowering the risk of heart disease
- Reducing chronic nerve pain
- Potentially improving ADHD symptoms
However, if you consume too much Omega-6s, you increase your risk of heart disease, asthma, arthritis, depression and other adverse conditions. I know what you’re thinking… how can omega-6s increase and decrease the risk of heart disease just by varying the amount?
Too much Omega-6 contributes to inflammation throughout the body, which raises all the aforementioned risk factors. Omega-6s are often found in unhealthy, processed and junk foods. The ideal ratio of Omega-6 to Omega-3 would be 2:1. The average American diet consumes a ratio of approximately 15:1. So the imbalance of Omega-6s to Omega-3s is actually suspected to increase the risk of ADHD.
What Science Says about Omega-3s and ADHD
The link between Omega-3s and ADHD is so profound that it is the most studied nutrient in conjunction with the prevention, reduction and treatment of ADHD. So what do these studies reveal?
- Two analytical studies show children with ADHD have lower blood levels of Omega-3s. According to one analysis, those with ADHD had Omega-3 levels 38% lower than their counterparts.
- A study of almost 200 school children showed diets low in Omega-3s were associated with a 31% higher risk of developing ADHD.
- Lower Omega-3 levels in children with ADHD are associated with impaired emotion processing. This can manifest in behaviors such as defiance, mood swings, hostility, learning difficulties and the ability to understand and appropriately respond to emotions.
- Children with ADHD and low Omega-3 levels have disorderly brain waves.
- The ability to properly metabolize fatty acids such as Omega-3s has a genetic component. Sixty to seventy percent of children diagnosed with ADHD and low Omega-3s have a variation in the gene needed to metabolize the fats. This same genetic piece is tied to a shortfall of behavioral hormones in the brain, including dopamine, serotonin and norepinephrine.
Can Omega-3 Supplements Help a Child with ADHD?
ADHD is finally being understood as a medical condition, rather than a child deliberately trying to behave poorly or inappropriately. Just as a person with diabetes would treat their condition with artificial insulin and diet strategies, a child with ADHD could significantly benefit from proper nutrition and sufficient amounts of Omega-3s. Supplementation may:
- Reduce hyperactivity. One of the hallmarks of ADHD is the seeming inability to control one’s body with constant motion, fidgeting or disruptive behaviors. Omega-3s lessen hyperactivity as reported by both teachers and parents, according to one analysis of 16 studies by researchers at Oregon Health and Science University.
- Improve control. A study out of Australia showed children previously diagnosed with ADHD who took an Omega-3 supplement daily for four months had a reduction in symptoms, including inattention, disobedience and hostility.
- Improve learning. A German study showed a significant increase in the “working memory” – the short-term recall part of the brain associated with learning, as well as creating and retaining memory.
- Improve sleeping. Sleep does so much for a person! And in true chicken-or-the-egg fashion, children with ADHD often have difficulty going to or staying asleep and getting good, quality sleep. With less sleep comes more behavioral challenges. A study in Israel evaluated children with ADHD and sleep problems. Some were provided a placebo, and others an Omega-3 / Omega-6 supplement. At the end of the 10-week study, children provided the supplement reported better sleep, improved behavior, less daytime fatigue and were better able to cooperate.
Nutritional Support for ADHD Symptoms
If you have a child with ADHD, regardless of the elected treatment path of medication, behavior therapy or holistic approach, adding an Omega-3 supplement, such as the one found in BIPRI Kids Attention and Focus Bundle, may provide the missing puzzle piece to aid in managing this challenging medical condition.
By helping your child improve focus, maintain body and behavioral control, and manage their emotions, you unlock the possibility of the world seeing the amazing human your child can truly be without the distraction of ADHD! Every child deserves a chance for the healthiest childhood. Our Clinic Director is available for free 15-minute consultations to help you and your child.