Omega-3 long chain polyunsaturated fatty acid supplementation (n-3 LCPUFA) for treatment of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is popular. The results of previous systematic reviews and meta-analyses of n-3 LCPUFA supplementation on ASD outcomes were inconclusive. Two meta-analyses were conducted; meta-analysis 1 compared blood levels of LCPUFA and their ratios arachidonic acid (ARA) to docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), ARA to eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), or total n-6 to total n-3 LCPUFA in ASD to those of typically developing individuals (with no neurodevelopmental disorders), and meta-analysis 2 compared the effects of n-3 LCPUFA supplementation to placebo on symptoms of ASD. Case-control studies and randomised controlled trials (RCTs) were identified searching electronic databases up to May, 2016. Mean differences were pooled and analysed using inverse variance models. Heterogeneity was assessed using I² statistic. Fifteen case-control studies (n = 1193) were reviewed. Compared with typically developed, ASD populations had lower DHA (-2.14 [95% CI -3.22 to -1.07]; p < 0.0001; I² = 97%), EPA (-0.72 [95% CI -1.25 to -0.18]; p = 0.008; I² = 88%), and ARA (-0.83 [95% CI, -1.48 to -0.17]; p = 0.01; I² = 96%) and higher total n-6 LCPUFA to n-3 LCPUFA ratio (0.42 [95% CI 0.06 to 0.78]; p = 0.02; I² = 74%). Four RCTs were included in meta-analysis 2 (n = 107). Compared with placebo, n-3 LCPUFA improved social interaction (-1.96 [95% CI -3.5 to -0.34]; p = 0.02; I² = 0) and repetitive and restricted interests and behaviours (-1.08 [95% CI -2.17 to -0.01]; p = 0.05; I² = 0). Populations with ASD have lower n-3 LCPUFA status and n-3 LCPUFA supplementation can potentially improve some ASD symptoms. Further research with large sample size and adequate study duration is warranted to confirm the efficacy of n-3 LCPUFA.
Keywords: autism; concentration; intervention; long chain polyunsaturated fatty acids; meta-analysis; omega-3; symptoms.