Food and Behaviour Research

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High-dose eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) improves attention and vigilance in children and adolescents with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and low endogenous EPA levels

Chang JP, Su KP, Mondelli V, Satyanarayanan SK, Yang HT, Chiang YJ, Chen HT, Pariante CM (2019) Transl Psychiatry.  2019 Nov;9(1): 303. doi: 10.1038/s41398-019-0633-0. 

Web URL: Read this and related abstracts on PubMed here


No studies have examined the relationship between endogenous polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) levels and treatment response to PUFAs. We conducted a 12-week, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial comparing the effects of high-dose eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA, 1.2 g) and placebo on cognitive function (continuous performance test) in n = 92 youth (age 6-18-years-old) with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).

Blood erythrocytes PUFAs were measured before and after treatment, to examine the effects of baseline 
endogenous EPA levels on treatment response and the effects of EPA treatment on PUFAs levels. Secondary measures included other ADHD symptoms, emotional symptoms, and levels of plasma high-sensitivity c-reactive protein (hs-CRP) and brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF).

EPA group improved more than placebo group on focused attention (variability, Effect size (ES) = 0.38, p = 0.041); moreover, within youth with the lowest baseline endogenous EPA levelsEPA group improved more than placebo group in another measure of focused attention (hit reaction time, HRT, ES = 0.89, p = 0.015) and in vigilance (HRT interstimulus interval changes, HRTISIC, ES = 0.83, p = 0.036).

EPA group improved less than placebo group in impulsivity (commission errors), both overall and in youth with the highest baseline EPA levels, who also showed less improvement in other ADHD and emotional symptoms. EPA increased blood erythrocytes EPA by 1.6-fold but not DHA levels, and did not affect hs-CRP and BDNF plasma levels.

In conclusion, 
EPA treatment improves cognitive symptoms in ADHD youth, especially if they have a low baseline endogenous EPA level, while youth with high EPA levels may be negatively affected by this treatment.


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For more news and research articles on the subject of ADHD and omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids, please see the following lists, which are regularly updated: