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ADHD Causes: Omega-3 Deficiency

Did you know that the human brain is made up of at least 60% fat? Just as bones are made of calcium and muscles are made of protein, so is our brain made up of fat. However, the brain isn’t made up out of any kind of fat - it is made up of omega-3 fatty acids, an essential type of fat that is commonly deficient in our typical modern diet. The easy availability of instant foods and junk food make us eat excessive amounts of trans-fats, saturated fats, and vegetable oils with omega-6 fatty acids, which prevent our body from utilizing the very small amount of omega-3 fats it gets.  In fact, nutrition experts believe that 60% of Americans have omega-3 deficiencies; 20% of these have so little omega-3 in their systems that tests cannot even detect any!

So what does omega-3 deficiency have to do with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD? A study by Purdue University reveals that children who have omega-3 deficiencies are more hyperactive and inattentive than children who have normal levels. This is because omega-3 fatty acids are essential for normal functioning of the cerebral cortex, the part of the brain responsible for higher functions like memory and reasoning.  Learning experts also believe that a deficiency in omega-3 fatty acids could explain some of the other health and behavioral problems associated with ADHD, such as eczema, dry hair, lethargy and fatigue, irritability, and food allergies.  In fact, there are many studies that show a correlation between a diagnosis of ADHD in children and these symptoms of omega-3 fatty acid deficiencies.

On the therapeutic side of the equation, several studies have been done where children diagnosed with ADHD have been treated with omega-3 supplements. The results are often astonishing.  In one study done over several months, fish oil supplements were given to one group while a placebo was given to another.  The children who took the fish oil supplements scored higher in reading, mathematics, spelling, and other academic subjects after several weeks!  No improvements were seen in the placebo group.

Although not all children with ADHD have a deficiency in omega-3 fatty acids, adding fish oil supplements to the diet may prove to be as effective as taking medication. In fact, studies reveal that children whose treatment includes only medication and therapy continue to be at high risk for deviant behavior like vandalism, substance abuse, and petty crime.  Not to mention that ADHD medication only corrects the imbalance in neurotransmitters, rather than the cause of the disorder – the deficiency brought about by poor nutrition.  Dietary adjustments are the key to overcoming ADHD naturally.

If you’d like to explore the possibility of using omega-3 fatty acids to help your child overcome ADHD, add a lot of seafood and flax to his or her diet. Flax contains alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), a master omega-3 fatty acid that synthesizes other omega-3 fatty acids. It can easily be incorporated as an ingredient in baking and meals.  Seafood, on the other hand, provides EPA, an important omega-3 fatty acid that the brain will transform in DHA. The latter is the most common fat in the brain.
If you plan to use fish oil supplements, choose one that has a high EPA-to-DHA ratio. Science has shown that this type of ratio works best for children with ADHD.