Current evidence and future directions for research with omega-3 fatty acids and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder

Curr Opin Clin Nutr Metab Care. 2015 Mar;18(2):133-8. doi: 10.1097/MCO.0000000000000140.


Purpose of review: Nutritional insufficiencies of nutrients such as omega-3 highly unsaturated fatty acids (HUFAs), vitamins and minerals have been linked to suboptimal developmental outcomes including attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Although the predominant treatment is currently psychostimulant medications, randomized clinical trials with omega-3 HUFAs have reported small-to-modest effects in reducing symptoms of ADHD in children despite arguable individual methodological and design misgivings.

Recent findings: This review presents, discusses and critically evaluates data and findings from meta-analytic and systematic reviews and clinical trials published within the last 12 months. Recent trajectories of this research are discussed, such as comparing eicosapentaenoic acid and docosahexaenoic acid and testing the efficacy of omega-3 HUFAs as an adjunct to methylphenidate. Discussion includes highlighting limitations and potential future directions such as addressing variable findings by accounting for other nutritional deficiencies and behavioural food intolerances.

Summary: The authors conclude that given the current economic burden of ADHD, estimated in the region of $77 billion in the USA alone, in addition to the fact that a proportion of patients with ADHD are either treatment resistant, nonresponders or withdraw from medication because of adverse side-effects, the investigation of nonpharmacological interventions including omega-3 HUFAs in clinical practice warrants extrapolating.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Attention Deficit Disorder with Hyperactivity / blood
  • Attention Deficit Disorder with Hyperactivity / therapy*
  • Central Nervous System Stimulants / therapeutic use
  • Child
  • Child Nutritional Physiological Phenomena
  • Fatty Acids, Omega-3 / blood
  • Fatty Acids, Omega-3 / therapeutic use*
  • Humans
  • Methylphenidate / therapeutic use


  • Central Nervous System Stimulants
  • Fatty Acids, Omega-3
  • Methylphenidate