Omega-3 fatty acid and ADHD: blood level analysis and meta-analytic extension of supplementation trials

Clin Psychol Rev. 2014 Aug;34(6):496-505. doi: 10.1016/j.cpr.2014.05.005. Epub 2014 Jun 2.


Interest in the value of omega-3 (n-3) fatty acid supplementation for treatment of ADHD remains high. No prior meta-analysis has examined whether ADHD is associated with alterations in blood lipid levels and meta-analyses of supplementation have reached conflicting conclusions.

Methods: We report two new meta-analyses. Study 1 examined blood levels of omega-3 fatty acids in relation to ADHD. Study 2 examined a larger sample of randomized intervention trials than previously reported.

Results: Study 1 included 9 studies (n=586) and found lower overall blood levels of n-3 in individuals with ADHD versus controls (g=0.42, 95% CI=0.26-0.59; p<.001). Study 2 included 16 studies (n=1408) and found that n-3 supplementation improved ADHD composite symptoms; using the best available rating and reporter (g=0.26, 95% CI=0.15-0.37; p<.001). Supplementation showed reliable effects on hyperactivity by parent and teacher report, but reliable effects for inattention only by parent report.

Conclusions: Omega-3 levels are reduced in children with ADHD. Dietary supplementation appears to create modest improvements in symptoms. There is sufficient evidence to consider omega-3 fatty acids as a possible supplement to established therapies. However it remains unclear whether such intervention should be confined to children with below normal blood levels.

Keywords: ADHD; Intervention; Meta-analysis; Omega−3; Polyunsaturated fatty acids; Supplementation.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Attention Deficit Disorder with Hyperactivity / blood*
  • Attention Deficit Disorder with Hyperactivity / diet therapy*
  • Child
  • Fatty Acids, Omega-3 / administration & dosage
  • Fatty Acids, Omega-3 / blood*
  • Fatty Acids, Omega-3 / pharmacology*
  • Humans


  • Fatty Acids, Omega-3