The effectiveness of omega-3 supplementation in reducing ADHD associated symptoms in children as measured by the Conners' rating scales: A systematic review of randomized controlled trials

J Psychiatr Res. 2019 Mar:110:64-73. doi: 10.1016/j.jpsychires.2018.12.002. Epub 2018 Dec 12.


Omega-3 supplements are considered to have anti-inflammatory effects which may be beneficial as inflammation has been linked to ADHD. The aim of this review is to examine the effectiveness of omega-3 supplementation at reducing ADHD symptoms in children and adolescents. Medline, Cinahl+, PsycINFO, Cochrane and Embase were searched for trials investigating the effects of omega-3 supplementation in children and adolescents with ADHD. The primary outcome measure was a mean difference in Conners' rating scale (CRS) between the intervention and placebo group. Search terms used include ADHD, omega-3, fish oils, eicosapentaenoic acid, docosahexaenoic acids, alpha-linolenic acid and Conners' rating scale. Randomized controlled trials examining the efficacy of omega-3 supplementation in children and adolescents as measured by CRS were included. Studies using a combination of polyunsaturated fatty acids or any other rating scale were excluded. Seven trials were included in this review, totalling 926 participants. We found no evidence of publication bias or heterogeneity between trials. Overall, there was a slightly greater reduction in CRS score in favour of the experiment group. One study found a greater reduction in score in favour of the placebo group. Neither findings were statistically significant. There is little supportive evidence to validate the claim of omega-3 supplementation to reduce the degree of ADHD symptoms experienced by children and adolescents. Both experiment and control groups saw similar reductions in Conners rating scale score.

Keywords: Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder; Conners rating scale; Omega-3 fatty acids; Polyunsaturated fatty acids; Randomized controlled trial.

Publication types

  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Attention Deficit Disorder with Hyperactivity / diet therapy*
  • Child
  • Fatty Acids, Omega-3 / pharmacology*
  • Humans
  • Outcome Assessment, Health Care*
  • Psychiatric Status Rating Scales*
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic*


  • Fatty Acids, Omega-3