Supplementation of omega 3 fatty acids may improve hyperactivity, lethargy, and stereotypy in children with autism spectrum disorders: a meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials

Neuropsychiatr Dis Treat. 2017 Oct 4;13:2531-2543. doi: 10.2147/NDT.S147305. eCollection 2017.

Abstract

Aim: Deficiency of omega 3 fatty acids may be linked to autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Evidence about the potential therapeutic effects of supplementation of omega 3 fatty acids is lacking in ASD patients.

Methods: We searched major electronic databases from inception to June 21, 2017, for randomized clinical trials, which compared treatment outcomes between supplementation of omega 3 fatty acids and placebo in patients with ASD. An exploratory random-effects meta-analysis of the included studies was undertaken.

Results and conclusion: Six trials were included (n=194). Meta-analysis showed that supplementation of omega 3 fatty acids improved hyperactivity (difference in means =-2.692, 95% confidence interval [CI] =-5.364 to -0.020, P=0.048, studies =4, n=109), lethargy (difference in means =-1.969, 95% CI =-3.566 to -0.372, P=0.016, studies =4, n=109), and stereotypy (difference in means =-1.071, 95% CI =-2.114 to -0.029, P=0.044, studies =4, n=109). No significant differences emerged between supplementation of omega 3 fatty acids and placebo in global assessment of functioning (n=169) or social responsiveness (n=97). Our preliminary meta-analysis suggests that supplementation of omega 3 fatty acids may improve hyperactivity, lethargy, and stereotypy in ASD patients. However, the number of studies was limited and the overall effects were small, precluding definitive conclusions. Future large-scale randomized clinical trials are needed to confirm or refute our findings.

Keywords: autism; omega 3; pediatric; poly-unsaturated fatty acid.