Norwegian scientists used omega-3 fatty acids to reduce ADHD symptoms in rats, according to a recent study. The researchers also demonstrated a “biological component” to ADHD. The University of Oslo considers its research unique because of the multidisciplinary approach used by the scientific team. The multidisciplinary team included researchers from the fields of behavioral medicine, psychology, nutritional science and biochemistry.
Omega-3 fatty acids are “essential nutrients for our health,” says Dr. Frank Sacks of the Harvard School of Public Health. He explains, “We need omega-3 fatty acids for numerous normal body functions, such as controlling blood clotting and building cell membranes in the brain, and since our bodies cannot make omega-3 fats, we must get them through food.” Sources of omega-3 fatty acids include certain vegetable oils and fish.
In this study, researchers started supplementation of omega-3 fatty acids in
pregnant rats. Omega-3 was added to the rats’ food when they began eating on their own. A separate control group that did not receive omega-3 supplements was also set up.
Researchers observed the behaviour of the two groups. The rats who received omega-3 showed better concentration and less hyperactivity than the control group. Male rats showed greater improvement in ADHD symptoms than females.
The next step for the team was examining the effect of omega-3 supplementation on brain chemistry. The team analysed the brain connections that “transfer nerve impulses from one nerve cell to another.” They then “measured how much of the neurotransmitters such as dopamine, serotonin and glutamate were released and broken down within the nerve fibres.”
Their findings showed a “faster turnover of the signal substances dopamine, serotonin and glutamate in the nervous system.” Again, the changes were more significant in males than females. “We have without a doubt found molecular changes in the brain after rats with ADHD were given omega-3,” says Ivar Walaas, Professor of Biochemistry and an author of the study.
Previous studies have made a connection between ADHD symptoms and omega-3 supplementation. Researchers, from Yale University School of Medicine, reviewed ten clinical trials that were examining the effects of omega-3 on children with ADHD. The Yale researchers concluded that omega-3 was “modestly effective” in reducing ADHD symptoms in children.
Both the Norwegian and Yale researchers recommend further study on omega-3 fatty acids and ADHD.