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ADHD and Omega 3

There is without doubt a national obsession about ADHD, whereby now every child that is boisterous, cheeky, doesnt concentrate too long is also liable to get this label. I think its well worth considering the wider implications of the current obsessive and disproportionate rate of children now labelled and drugged.  We should consider the long term implications on a child's sense of worth and wellbeing for this stigma, the over zelousness and inappropriate diagnosis and our need to box and categorise what are actually quite normal healthy traits very often and even when the symptoms can seem excessive, no attention is ever paid to possible other causes, like diet, emotional upset, anxiety, boredom and frustration and our fast junk food, additive ridden diets we have today.  Children who are misunderstood and not managed properly can escalate bad behaviour.  The right responses to a child's 'naughtiness' can eliminate or drastically reduce the recurrence of misbehaviour.  But of course, whilst these little ones are subdued and controlled with drugs, their real needs are not being met as it absolves both parent and child of any responsibility because its all down to a "condition" which may very well not be the case at all.  Whilst I am not saying ADHD doesnt exist, the rate of children being diagnosed with it for behaviours that come well within the normal range is clearly wrong. I work in a child care environment and actually witness this on a weekly basis.

Nutrition is a vital consideration, although I do not believe its the only one in the current "epidemic"  This may be useful for parents desparate to find alternative solutions to drugging their small children with powerful amphetemines.  Its a section from "Healing with Nutrition"

"ADHD children also tend to have more allergies, eczema, asthma, headaches, stomachaches, ear infections and dry skin than non-ADHD youngsters," note Donald Rudin, M.D. and Clara Felix, authors of Omega-3 Oils: A Practical Guide (Avery 1996). Both Rudin and Felix claim that these problems, including ADHD, are part of a modernization-disease syndrome, which arises from malnutrition centered on an omega-3 fatty acid deficiency.

Their contention is supported by growing scientific evidence. The connection between omega-3 fatty acid deficiency and ADHD has been confirmed by studies in which youngsters with ADHD, when compared with non-ADHD children had much lower blood levels of docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), an omega-3 fatty acid necessary for normal function of the eyes and the cerebral cortex (the brain region that handles higher functions such as reasoning and memory).

Scientific Evidence

Two types of fatty acids are considered essential. Omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids cannot be synthesized in the body, and must be obtained from the diet. The omega-6 fatty acids are distributed evenly in most tissues and easily obtained through food sources commonly found in the American diet, but omega-3 fatty acids are concentrated in a few tissues including the brain. Because of their relative scarceness in the American diet, many children - perhaps the majority of children today - are deficient in omega-3 fatty acids. Learning specialists now believe omega-3 fatty acid deficiency leads to unique symptoms during childhood, including behavioral problems. The evidence is certainly suggestive:

In 1981, researchers first hypothesized that children with ADHD may have reduced nutritional status of essential fatty acids because they showed greater thirst (a symptom of essential fatty acid deficiency) compared to children without ADHD.

These results were further confirmed in 1983. When essential fatty acids were examined in 23 maladjusted children and 20 normal children, essential fatty acid blood levels in poorly behaved children were significantly lower.

In 1987, researchers further documented that 48 children with ADHD reported significantly greater thirst, more frequent urination, and more health and learning problems than children without ADHD. Significantly lower levels of two omega-6 fatty acids and one omega-3 fatty acid (DHA) were found in the subjects with ADHD symptoms.

In a 1995 study comparing plasma essential fatty acid levels in 53 boys with ADHD to a control group of 43 boys without ADHD, researchers found significantly lower levels of omega-3 fatty acids.

In the April - May 1996 issue of Physiology & Behavior, Laura J. Stevens, of the Department of Foods and Nutrition, Purdue University, and co-investigators reported that boys with lower levels of omega-3 fatty acids in their blood showed more problems with behavior, learning, and health than those with higher levels of total omega-3 fatty acids.

Also, in 1996, researchers from the Department of Psychiatry, Technical University, Faculty of Medicine, Trabzon, Turkey, reported that levels of free fatty acids as well as zinc were severalfold lower in ADHD children compared to non-ADHD children.

The Doctor's Prescription

"We shouldn't be prescribing medicine simply because that's the easiest way to go," notes Dr. Mark Stein, who runs a University of Chicago clinic for children and adults with the disorder.

While all children with ADHD are not deficient in omega-3 fatty acids, we believe that the addition of omega-3 fatty acids to the diet may be important for some ADHD children.

In fact, studies show that children whose treatment program includes only medication, educational and psychological therapy continue to be at high risk for vandalism, petty crime, frequency of alcoholic intoxication, and possession of marijuana. Dietary improvements may be the key to fostering long-term health and acceptable behavior.

Parents of ADHD children and ADHD adults who wish to utilize omega-3 fatty acids as a method of modifying their behavior should use both flax and seafood sources of omega-3 fatty acids. Flax provides alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), the master omega-3 fatty acid from which other omega-3 fatty acids are synthesized. Seafood provides DHA directly which appears to be a vital omega-3 fatty acid for modifying behavior of ADHD children and adults. The rate of conversion of ALA to DHA is quite low. However, alpha-linolenic acid may be important to behavioral improvements as well. Therefore, a combination of flax and seafood is best.

DHA is available in pill form and various formulas can be recommended by your health food store retailer.

On the other hand, flax, which can be inconspicuously incorporated into children's meals, holds many benefits.

Flax can be used in baking (e.g., muffins and bread), salad dressings and in smoothies - as well as many other tasty dishes. Although many persons believe that flax is too fragile to be used as a cooking oil, "recent studies show little or no loss of [alpha-linolenic acid] when milled flaxseed is baked as an ingredient in muffins or breads," says Felix.

6 Responses
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473036 tn?1211756912
Hi Lowen,

I found your post really interesting, I do agree with your comments that there are many kids out their put on meds that do not need it, and I am a big believer in diet as it really does make a difference. I have always beleived that meds were a last resort, I also feel that there are a lot of kids out there that just need disipline and cosnistency in parenting.  before anyone goe what the hell is she talking about I have ADD and so do my 2 daughters.  I only started meds 1 year ago when everything got to much and my everyday life was affected. my daughters only started meds age 15 and 17. my eldest has the bad skin eczma etc but she was not a naughty kid, I made sure growing up they had a healthy diet and took appropriate supplements, especially for eczma. both gilrs did not drink cows milk for the first 2 years of their life as they reacted to the lactose, my youngest still drinks soya milk

My youngest was the naughty kid, anger problems,  destructive temper tantrums etc we got through this by taking advice and learning as much as we could about anger managment and different parenting methods, diet etc.

the decision to go on meds was not a light one, both girls wre having real problems at school, my eldest (the quiet one) I found out was falling asleep in class, when she could not follow the class she was dispruptive and would poke and distract her class mates, she could not focus and would day dream out the window and was just getting by. the change in her schooling with meds was amazing she went from barley passing to straight A's and everyone noticed the difference in class and could tell when she was medicate to not been medicated.

The youngest got by, homework was a nightmare and the hysterics and frustration over homework was unbeleiveable, she would try any thing to get us to do it for her or throwing sickes because something at school was coming up she did not want to face, her change was alsoe fantastic, now she will not go out because she has homework, she has also gone from failing to being a straight A student and is not doint tertiary level maths.

behavious can be managed, these kids just need to be disiplined differently, they respond much better to positive re-inforcement not criticism and with my youngest I learned to recognise when a tantrum could and was coming and to get her focused on something else.

I also agree that diet can play a big part in kids behaviour and its up to the parents to take control and say no, my niece got a real shock at my house when she was looking for a snack (she thought I had no real food) as I only had fruit etc and she wanted chips and chocolate.  kids that are active can really be affected by preservatives etc but I also understand that majority of parents do not take the decision of meds lightly.

Good luck to all who have kids that are a challenge, mine are teenagers and it is just different challenges now.

PS stupid question, could you please tell me what exactly is Flax and what food sources does this come from?
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203342 tn?1328737207
Flax is a seed and comes from a plant. It's a very good source of omega 3s, the good fats. It's high in fiber, low in carbohydrates and has many good health benefits including lubricating joints and the intestines (good for IBS or Crohns patients), it helps protect against heart disease and cancer. They also believe it's good for the brain because the brain needs good fats. That's why they believe it's good for those with ADHD.
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Avatar universal
I have had wonderful success by using a pharmaceutical grade omega-3 made especially for kids ("Learn").  I have 3 kids:  one with ADHD/Aspgerger's, one with Oppositional Defiance and one that's just a typical boy.  The Omega-3 has helped all of them with moods, concentration, impulsivity & better handwriting.  The omega, in addition to a healthier diet, makes me feel like I am helping them get through life in a way that can be managed for the rest of their lives.  If you teach them a certain lifestyle early, the hope is that it will travel with them throughout their adult years.  Studies are showing that omega-3 is good in so many other ways (joint, heart, brain) and now there's another benefit -it can help our kids too.  
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Avatar universal
i have a 16 year old boy who`s been on concerta and really doesn`t want to take it anymore, i figured summertime would be a good time to try not taking it (sorry..he has add) how much omega 3 should he be taking?? and the flax? thanks so much for any help   debbie
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523918 tn?1244549831
Very interesting, I have some friends that gave MorEPA junior (it has omega 3) to their children, they told me that this medication works very well and it has been a success in Sweden:
So I think it is a good option for some children.
Helpful - 0
Avatar universal
I have to agree ,they put children on all these medicines with all these bad side effects,and yet they say cough medicine is know good for them along with pain medicines.

I am going to send my son seizures doctor about what you posted and see if it is ok for us to try on him.

my son didn't have seizures until he was on add and adhd medicine.
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