Omega-3 fatty acids are related to abnormal emotion processing in adolescent boys with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder

Prostaglandins Leukot Essent Fatty Acids. 2013 Jun;88(6):419-29. doi: 10.1016/j.plefa.2013.03.008. Epub 2013 May 6.


Background: In addition to the core symptoms, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is associated with poor emotion regulation. There is some evidence that children and young adults with ADHD have lower omega-3 levels and that supplementation with omega-3 can improve both ADHD and affective symptoms. We therefore investigated differences between ADHD and non-ADHD children in omega-3/6 fatty acid plasma levels and the relationship between those indices and emotion-elicited event-related potentials (ERPs).

Methods: Children/adolescents with (n=31) and without ADHD (n=32) were compared in their plasma omega-3/6 indices and corresponding ERPs during an emotion processing task.

Results: Children with ADHD had lower mean omega-3/6 and ERP abnormalities in emotion processing, independent of emotional valence relative to control children. ERP abnormalities were significantly associated with lower omega-3 levels in the ADHD group.

Conclusions: The findings reveal for the first time that lower omega-3 fatty acids are associated with impaired emotion processing in ADHD children.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Intramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Area Under Curve
  • Attention Deficit Disorder with Hyperactivity / blood*
  • Attention Deficit Disorder with Hyperactivity / physiopathology
  • Attention Deficit Disorder with Hyperactivity / psychology
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Child
  • Electrodes
  • Emotions*
  • Facial Expression
  • Fatty Acids, Omega-3 / blood*
  • Fatty Acids, Omega-6 / blood*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male


  • Fatty Acids, Omega-3
  • Fatty Acids, Omega-6