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Effect of Supplementation with Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids and Micronutrients on Learning and Behavior Problems Associated with Child ADHD

Sinn, Natalie PhD*†; Bryan, Janet PhD

Journal of Developmental & Behavioral Pediatrics: April 2007 - Volume 28 - Issue 2 - p 82-91
doi: 10.1097/01.DBP.0000267558.88457.a5
Original Article

Methods: Various developmental problems including attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) have been linked to biological deficiencies in polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs). Additionally, there is evidence that symptoms may be reduced with PUFA supplementation. This study investigated effects of supplementation with PUFAs on symptoms typically associated with ADHD. Because nutrients work synergistically, additional effects of micronutrient supplementation were also investigated. A total of 132 Australian children aged 7 to 12 years with scores ≥2 SD above the population average on the Conners ADHD Index participated in a randomized, placebo-controlled, double-blind intervention over 15 weeks, taking PUFAs alone, PUFAs + micronutrients, or placebo. Due to unreturned questionnaires, data were only available for 104 children.

Results: Significant medium to strong positive treatment effects were found on parent ratings of core ADHD symptoms, inattention, hyperactivity/impulsivity, on the Conners Parent Rating Scale (CPRS) in both PUFA treatment groups compared with the placebo group; no additional effects were found with the micronutrients. After a one-way crossover to active supplements in all groups for a further 15 weeks, these results were replicated in the placebo group, and the treatment groups continued to show significant improvements on CPRS core symptoms. No significant effects were found on Conners Teacher Rating Scales.

Conclusion: These results add to preliminary findings that ADHD-related problems with inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity might respond to treatment with PUFAs and that improvements may continue with supplementation extending to 30 weeks.

From *Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Reasearch Organization Human Nutrition, Adelaide, South Australia; and †University of South Australia, School of Psychology, Adelaide, South Australia.

See related Commentary on page 139 of this issue.

Received May 2006; accepted January 2007.

This study was made possible with the support of the University of South Australia and CSIRO Human Nutrition. Equazen UK and Novasel Australia supplied fatty acid supplements and Blackmores Australia supplied multivitamin/mineral tablets.

Address for reprints: Natalie Sinn, Nutritional Physiology Research Center, University of South Australia, GPO Box 2471, Adelaide SA 5001, Australia, e-mail:

© 2007 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.