Effect of supplementation with long-chain ω-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids on behavior and cognition in children with attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD): a randomized placebo-controlled intervention trial

Prostaglandins Leukot Essent Fatty Acids. 2014 Jul-Aug;91(1-2):49-60. doi: 10.1016/j.plefa.2014.04.004. Epub 2014 May 28.


Objective: To determine whether supplementation with the long-chain omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids eicosapentaenoic (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) affects behavioral symptoms and cognitive impairments in children 6-12 years of age diagnosed with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

Study design: The randomized, double-blind placebo-controlled 16 weeks trial was conducted with 95 children diagnosed with ADHD according to DSM-IV criteria. Behavior was assessed by parents, teachers and investigators using standardized rating scales and questionnaires. Further outcome variables were working memory, speed of information processing and various measures of attention. For a subgroup of 81 participants, erythrocyte membrane fatty acid composition was analyzed before and after the intervention.

Results: Supplementation with the omega-3 fatty acid mix increased EPA and DHA concentrations in erythrocyte membranes and improved working memory function, but had no effect on other cognitive measures and parent- and teacher-rated behavior in the study population. Improved working memory correlated significantly with increased EPA, DHA and decreased AA (arachidonic acid).

Keywords: Attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD); Behavior; Children; Intervention; Polyunsaturated fatty acids/erythrocyte membrane composition; Working memory.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Arachidonic Acid / metabolism
  • Attention / drug effects
  • Attention Deficit Disorder with Hyperactivity / diet therapy*
  • Attention Deficit Disorder with Hyperactivity / metabolism
  • Attention Deficit Disorder with Hyperactivity / physiopathology
  • Child
  • Child Behavior / drug effects*
  • Cognition / drug effects
  • Dietary Supplements*
  • Docosahexaenoic Acids / administration & dosage*
  • Docosahexaenoic Acids / metabolism
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Eicosapentaenoic Acid / administration & dosage*
  • Eicosapentaenoic Acid / metabolism
  • Erythrocyte Membrane / chemistry
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Memory, Short-Term / drug effects*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires


  • Docosahexaenoic Acids
  • Arachidonic Acid
  • Eicosapentaenoic Acid