Behavioral effects of omega-3 fatty acid supplementation in young adults with severe autism: an open label study

Arch Med Res. 2008 Oct;39(7):682-5. doi: 10.1016/j.arcmed.2008.06.005.


Background: Pilot findings seem to suggest a potential beneficial effect of omega-3 fatty acid (FA) supplementation on behavioral alterations in children with autism. However, data on the potential benefits of omega-3 supplements in young adults with severe autism are lacking. In the present study, we sought to explore this issue in an open label study.

Methods: Nineteen young adults with severe autism (CARS >40), aged 18-40 years, received two fish oil capsules per day [0.93 g of eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) plus 5 mg of vitamin E to avoid lipid peroxidation] for 6 weeks. Subjects were assessed with an ad hoc caregiver questionnaire, the Rossago Behavioral Checklist, for the assessment of behavioral anomalies.

Results: No significant improvements were observed with regard to the severity and frequency of problematic behaviors either during the active treatment period or during the post-treatment 6-week observation period. Moreover, no effect on the number of episodes and severity of behavior aberrations was observed.

Conclusions: Our negative findings do not point toward a major effect of omega-3 FA supplementation on behavioral abnormalities in adults with severe autism. Further studies on larger sample sizes are warranted to shed more light on this important issue.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Autistic Disorder / drug therapy*
  • Autistic Disorder / psychology
  • Behavior / drug effects*
  • Dietary Supplements
  • Fatty Acids, Omega-3 / administration & dosage*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male


  • Fatty Acids, Omega-3