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Omega-3 Fatty Acids and ADHD


There are numerous studies showing that omega-3 fatty acids help lessen the symptoms of ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder) and ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder).


Not all fats are bad fats. We need to eat fat daily, they are a part of the essential nutrients we must get in our diet to remain healthy, mentally and physically. A large part of our brains are fatty acids. It appears that children with ADD and ADHD tend to have lower values of omega-3 in relation to omega-6 than average. The result is a fatty acid deficiency or imbalance, specifically a lack of the omega-3 fatty acids DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) and EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid), and an excess of the omega-6 fatty acid.


This can possibly be a result of metabolic differences in fatty acid handling between children with attention deficit and average children. There are a number of hypotheses as to why this is so. The answers might be found in 10 to 15 years’ time. However we need help today. We at least know what works.


Omega-3 does help children and adults with attention deficit to focus, and is a vital part in the brain cell system. But we need a balance with other nutrients. Some nutrients are usually lacking in ADD and ADHD people, and these nutrients are necessary to work together for optimum efficiency.


Vitamin E and vitamin C are two such important antioxidants. There is a hypothesis that the omega-3 fatty acid deficiency in ADHD children is due to a faster omega-3 oxidation in ADHD people’s metabolism. Because attention deficit is something that happens/does not happen in the brain, it is vital that we have adequate antioxidants to protect the omega-3 in these key brain cell systems. there are supplements with a balanced antioxidant mix such as Doctor's Choice Antioxidants


Norwegian Salmon Oil by Carlson

Norwegian Salmon Oil by Carlson Labs

Unfortunately the “fat is bad” lobby have been a bit too successful, as many people now try to limit their fat intake, irrespective of what fat it is. If their diet is largely processed foods, then the little fat they eat will be predominantly the bad fat, and badly ballanced at that. This is a serious factor for an attention deficit child.


The nutrients we need are all interconnected. We need to have a balance in our diet. Avoiding one essential ingredient causes a knock on effect and the next nutrient down the line cannot be absorbed, so it goes in one end and out the other.


Without fat in your diet there is a likelihood of deficiencies in vitamin A, D, E and K. Then there are the enzymes, hormones, and neurotransmitters that cannot function without certain fats.


omega 3 molecule

Omega fatty acids get their names from where the unsaturated double bonds are in the molecule. Their head has two oxygen atoms and then there is a long tail of carbon atoms with one or two hydrogen atoms on each carbon. Where there is one hydrogen the carbon atoms form double bonds, and this is the unsaturated part of the molecule.


The tail is called the omega end (from the last letter of the Greek alphabet). If we start counting from the omega end of fatty acid, the first double carbon bond we come to is at the third carbon atom, so this is called omega 3, and the fatty acids made from it are in the omega 3 family.

omega 6 molecule

Where the first double bond lies at the sixth carbon atom we have omega-6 and the fatty acids made from it are in the omega-6 family.


Together, omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids play a crucial role in brain function as well as normal growth and development. Most of us have sufficient omega-6 in our diet, but omega 3 fatty acids are scarcer in food products.


Meat, milk, eggs and butter used to be a source of omega 3, but then the cows ate grass and the chickens scratched in the ground. Today’s practice of feeding concentrates has reduced the amount of omega 3 in these products.


Omega 3 and omega 6 need to be in balance for us to be healthy, as they balance each other in many areas. Since our Western diets are unbalanced on the omega 6 side, we need omega 3 rich foods and supplements as part of a healthy balanced diet.


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