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The Role of Omega-3 Fatty Acids in Developmental Psychopathology: A Systematic Review on Early Psychosis, Autism, and ADHD.

Agostoni C, Nobile M, Ciappolino V, Delvecchio G, Tesei A, Turolo S, Crippa A, Mazzocchi A, Altamura CA, Brambilla P. (2017) Int J Mol Sci.  18(12).  pii: E2608. doi: 10.3390/ijms18122608. 

Web URL: View this and related abstracts via PubMed here, Free full text of this article is available online


In this systematic review, we will consider and debate studies that have explored the effects of ω-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) in three major, and somehow related, developmental psychiatric disorders: Autism, Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity disorder and Psychosis.

The impact of ω-3 PUFAs on clinical symptoms and, if possible, brain trajectory in 
children and adolescents suffering from these illnesses will be reviewed and discussed, considering the biological plausibility of the effects of omega-3 fatty acids, together with their potential perspectives in the field.

Heterogeneity in study designs will be discussed in the light of differences in results and interpretation of studies carried out so far.


PUFAs; attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD); autism; docosahexaenoic acid (DHA); eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA); first psychotic episode; neurodevelopment; omega-3; ultra-high risk for psychosis


This open-access systematic review summarises the latest evidence for the effects of dietary supplementation with omega-3 fatty acids for ADHD, autism and early-stage psychosis / schizophrenia.

While these conditions obviously have their differences, they also show notable overlaps in terms of both symptomatology and risk factors - both with each other, and also with other neurodevelopmental and psychiatric disorders.  Considering them together therefore makes sense, as does a possible role for relative deficiencies of omega-3 fatty acids in these conditions, as has been emphasised before:
As the authors of this new review emphasise, most randomized controlled trials in this area remain small (and thus lacking in 'statistical power') as well as of short duration.  They also vary widely in the actual populations studied, formulations and dosages of fatty acids used, and the outcomes assessed, making it difficult to combine or compare findings in many cases. 

The current evidence indicates some benefit from omega-3 for 'ADHD-type' symptoms. For autism and psychosis, findings are more limited and mixed, but include possible reductions in medications needed.  The authors conclude that more large-scale trials are still needed, but that further research in these areas is well justified.

See also:
And for more research involving randomized controlled trials of 'fatty acids' for mood, behaviour or learning, see here