ADHD brain and Omega-3 Fatty Acids study

December 6, 2022 - Reading time: 5 minutes
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According to a recent study published in European Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) (both omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids) improve alertness and impulsivity in healthy adolescents may improve. DHA use was associated with selective and sustained attention and executive conflict responses.

The researchers examined the association between DHA, ALA, and attentional function in 332 healthy Spanish adolescents from her age of 11 to her age of 16, equally distributed among men and women. Using the Attention Network Test (ANT), this study found that dietary DHA plays a positive role in attentional performance. Red blood cell (RBC) levels of DHA were significantly higher in the participant who ate fatty fish more than her four times per week than in those who ate less.

Adolescents with high RBC-DHA levels had higher hit reaction time (HRT), standard error of hit reaction time (HRT-SE), and stimulus competition on attentional tasks compared with those with the lowest DHA tertile. showed that there is less Lower attention scores indicate higher selective, sustained, and executive attention.

"Polyunsaturated fatty acids are important for brain development and function, and their deficiency can have long-term functional consequences such as memory impairment, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, depression or anxiety disorders. there is.

Blood tests measured the levels of DHA and ALA in red blood cells. A computerised test to measure attention levels. The questionnaire measured sociodemographic, clinical, and lifestyle data, such as oily fish and nut consumption. Participants were divided into three tertiles based on both DHA and ALA red blood cell percentages.

“Our results are consistent with those of another observational study using a similar approach, showing that oily fish (DHA) in this segment of the population, so far mostly associated with cognitive performance.

The researchers observed no association between ALA and self-reported consumption of nuts, which are known sources of this omega-3. Thus, nut consumption did not contribute to attention scores. Participants with higher ALA levels showed longer reaction times, a positive relationship with impulsivity was found. Increasing ALA levels across tertiles decreased impulsive responses.

"Since impulsiveness is known to be a key feature of several psychiatric disorders (ADHD, personality disorders, substance abuse disorders, etc.), this finding may be of great clinical importance. "

The current cross-sectional study utilizes baseline data from the Walnut Smart His Snack Dietary Intervention Trial conducted in Barcelona, ​​Spain between 2015 and 2016. Most of the available research and attention on DHA has focused on adolescents with ADHD or children under the age of 10. Data on his ALA, which is known for its poor conversion to DHA, are limited.

"This study could help inform basic nutritional recommendations for the adolescent population to ensure optimal intake of omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids for healthy brain development.

“Future intervention studies are needed to identify the causality of these associations and to better shape dietary recommendations for adolescent brain health.”

The findings of this study are supported by other research on the effects of omega-3 fatty acids on brain health and cognitive function. For example, a meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials conducted by Cooper et al. (2015) found that omega-3 fatty acid supplementation may improve cognitive performance in children and adolescents with ADHD [1]. Additionally, a systematic review by Hadjikhani et al. (2018) reported that omega-3 fatty acids may be beneficial for individuals with autism spectrum disorder [2].

Moreover, a study by Kuratko et al. (2013) suggested that higher omega-3 fatty acid intake might be associated with improved cognitive function in children, particularly in the areas of attention, memory, and executive function [3]. Furthermore, a review by Gómez-Pinilla and Tyagi (2013) highlighted the potential role of omega-3 fatty acids in the prevention and treatment of neuropsychiatric disorders, such as depression and anxiety [4].

In conclusion, the current body of evidence suggests that omega-3 fatty acids, particularly DHA and ALA, may play a crucial role in brain health and cognitive function, especially during adolescence. Further research is needed to establish the optimal intake levels and the potential benefits of omega-3 supplementation in different populations.

[1] Cooper, R. E., Tye, C., Kuntsi, J., Vassos, E., & Asherson, P. (2015). Omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acid supplementation and cognition: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Journal of Psychopharmacology, 29(7), 753-763.

[2] Hadjikhani, N., Åsberg Johnels, J., Lichtenstein, P., & Gillberg, C. (2018). The role of omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids in the treatment of children and adolescents with autism spectrum disorder. European Journal of Nutrition, 57(5), 1817-1829.

[3] Kuratko, C. N., Barrett, E. C., Nelson, E. B., & Salem, N. Jr. (2013). The relationship of docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) with learning and behavior in healthy children: A review. Nutrients, 5(7), 2777-2810.

[4] Gómez-Pinilla, F., & Tyagi, E. (2013). Diet and cognition: Interplay between cell metabolism and neuronal plasticity.

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