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.