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Omegas and Autism: 3 Studies Show Promise for Some Spectrum Disorder Symptoms

As parents and pediatricians struggle to find effective therapies for children with autistic spectrum disorders, researchers are honing in on the mechanisms of Omega fatty acids in brain development for this complex systemic condition. We’ve collected some recent studies on Omegas and autism that show promise.

Recent Study Abstracts on Omegas and Autism

1. Effect of Omega-3 and -6 Supplementation on Language in Preterm Toddlers Exhibiting Autism Spectrum Disorder Symptoms

ABSTRACT: Delayed language development may be an early indicator of autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Early intervention is critical for children with ASD, and the present study presents pilot data on a clinical trial of omega-3 and -6 fatty acid supplementation and language development, a secondary trial outcome, in children at risk for ASD. We randomized 31 children to receive an omega-3 and -6 supplement or a placebo for 3 months, and measured their language abilities at baseline and after supplementation. Gesture use, but not word production, increased for children in the treatment group more than children in the placebo group. These results suggest possible effectiveness of omega-3 and -6 supplementation for language development in children at risk for ASD.

Source: Sheppard, K.W., Boone, K.M., Gracious, B. et al. J Autism Dev Disord (2017) 47: 3358.

2. Supplementation of omega 3 fatty acids may improve hyperactivity, lethargy, and stereotypy in children with autism spectrum disorders: a meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials

ABSTRACT Six trials were included (n=194). Meta-analysis showed that supplementation of omega 3 fatty acids improved hyperactivity (difference in means =−2.692, 95% confidence interval [CI] =−5.364 to −0.020, P=0.048, studies =4, n=109), lethargy (difference in means =−1.969, 95% CI =−3.566 to −0.372, P=0.016, studies =4, n=109), and stereotypy (difference in means =−1.071, 95% CI =−2.114 to −0.029, P=0.044, studies =4, n=109). No significant differences emerged between supplementation of omega 3 fatty acids and placebo in global assessment of functioning (n=169) or social responsiveness (n=97). Our preliminary meta-analysis suggests that supplementation of omega 3 fatty acids may improve hyperactivity, lethargy, and stereotypy in ASD patients. However, the number of studies was limited and the overall effects were small, precluding definitive conclusions. Future large-scale randomized clinical trials are needed to confirm or refute our findings.

Source: Cheng Y-S, Tseng P-T, Chen Y-W, et al. Neuropsychiatric Disease and Treatment. 2017;13:2531-2543. doi:10.2147/NDT.S147305.

3. ω-3 and ω-6 Fatty Acid Supplementation May Reduce Autism Symptoms Based on Parent Report in Preterm Toddlers

This was a 90-d randomized, fully blinded, placebo-controlled trial in 31 children 18–38 mo of age who were born at ≤29 wk of gestation. One group was assigned to daily Omega-3-6-9 Junior (Nordic Naturals, Inc.) treatment (including 338 mg eicosapentaenoic acid, 225 mg DHA, and 83 mg GLA), and the other group received canola oil (124 mg palmitic acid, 39 mg stearic acid, 513 mg linoleic acid, 225 mg α-linolenic acid, and 1346 mg oleic acid). Mixed-effects regression analyses followed intent-to-treat analysis and explored effects on parent-reported ASD symptoms and related behaviors.

It found clinically-significant improvements in ASD symptoms for children randomly assigned to receive Omega-3-6-9 fatty acids, but effects were confined to one subscale, the Social Emotional Assessment ASD scale.

Source: Keim, Sarah et al. The Journal of Nutrition, Volume 148, Issue 2, 1 February 2018, Pages 227–235,

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