Dietary docosahexaenoic acid supplementation in children with autism

J Pediatr Gastroenterol Nutr. 2014 Jun;58(6):715-22. doi: 10.1097/MPG.0000000000000260.


Objective: The aim of the study was to determine whether docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) supplementation improves the behavior of children with autism.

Methods: A group of 3- to 10-year-old children with autism were randomized in a double-blind fashion to receive a supplement containing 200 mg of DHA or a placebo for 6 months. The parents and the investigator completed the Clinical Global Impressions-Improvement scale to rate changes in core symptoms of autism after 3 and 6 months. The parents completed the Child Development Inventory and the Aberrant Behavior Checklist, and both parents and teachers completed the Behavior Assessment Scale for Children (BASC) at enrollment and after 6 months.

Results: A total of 48 children (40 [83%] boys, mean age [standard deviation] 6.1 [2.0] years) were enrolled; 24 received DHA and 24 placebo. Despite a median 431% increase in total plasma DHA levels after 6 months, the DHA group was not rated as improved in core symptoms of autism compared to the placebo group on the CGI-I. Based on the analysis of covariance models adjusted for the baseline rating scores, parents (but not teachers) provided a higher average rating of social skills on the BASC for the children in the placebo group compared to the DHA group (P = 0.04), and teachers (but not parents) provided a higher average rating of functional communication on the BASC for the children in the DHA group compared to the placebo group (P = 0.02).

Conclusions: Dietary DHA supplementation of 200 mg/day for 6 months does not improve the core symptoms of autism. Our results may have been limited by inadequate sample size.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Autistic Disorder* / drug therapy
  • Child
  • Child Behavior*
  • Child, Preschool
  • Communication*
  • Diet
  • Dietary Supplements*
  • Docosahexaenoic Acids* / blood
  • Docosahexaenoic Acids* / therapeutic use
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Parents
  • Social Skills*


  • Docosahexaenoic Acids