Omega-3 fatty acid and ADHD: Blood level analysis and meta-analytic extension of supplementation trials

Elizabeth Hawkey, Joel T. Nigg

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

92 Scopus citations


Interest in the value of omega.3 (n 3) fatty acid supplementation for treatment of ADHD remains high. No prior meta-analysis has examined whether ADHD is associated with alterations in blood lipid levels and meta-analyses of supplementation have reached conflicting conclusions. Methods: We report two new meta-analyses. Study 1 examined blood levels of omega. 3 fatty acids in relation to ADHD. Study 2 examined a larger sample of randomized intervention trials than previously reported. Results: Study 1 included 9 studies (n=586) and found lower overall blood levels of n. 3 in individuals with ADHD versus controls (g=0.42, 95% CI=0.26-0.59; p. <. 001). Study 2 included 16 studies (n=1408) and found that n. 3 supplementation improved ADHD composite symptoms; using the best available rating and reporter (g=0.26, 95% CI=0.15-0.37; p. <. 001). Supplementation showed reliable effects on hyperactivity by parent and teacher report, but reliable effects for inattention only by parent report. Conclusions: Omega. 3 levels are reduced in children with ADHD. Dietary supplementation appears to create modest improvements in symptoms. There is sufficient evidence to consider omega. 3 fatty acids as a possible supplement to established therapies. However it remains unclear whether such intervention should be confined to children with below normal blood levels.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)496-505
Number of pages10
JournalClinical Psychology Review
Issue number6
StatePublished - Aug 2014


  • ADHD
  • Intervention
  • Meta-analysis
  • Omega-3
  • Polyunsaturated fatty acids
  • Supplementation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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