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As Editor and Reporter for Healthy-Oil-Planet.com, I've researched the health benefits of natural oils and tried to present you the most accurate and current information for enhancing your health with these products.
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Can You Really Use Fish Oil for Autism Symptoms?
With all the attention given to the benefits of fish oil, you may be wondering if you can use fish oil for treating autism and its symptoms.
While fish oils may not be a cure for autism, some researchers believe there may be a possible link between the healthy fats found in fish oil and the risk for developing autistic behaviors, as well as reducing autistic symptoms in certain people with autism.
What is Autism?
Autism is a disorder with many different symptoms. The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke defines autism as:
“Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a range of complex neurodevelopment disorders, characterized by social impairments, communication difficulties, and restricted, repetitive, and stereotyped patterns of behavior.”
Studies Support Eating Healthy Fats for a Healthy Mind
Omega 3 fatty acids, also called essential fatty acids, play a key role in the healthy development of our children’s neurological development. Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), is the most abundant fatty acid found in our brains and retinas. Scientists believe DHA profoundly affects our neurological and visual development.
- Researchers now believe that low levels of DHA are linked to slower brain activity and Alzheimer’s disease. Additionally, some studies show that a small minority of severely depressed patients have chronically low levels of DHA.
- Studies indicate taking fish oil during pregnancy passes DHA to the baby during breastfeeding. DHA is particularly important for developing a healthy immune system and enhancing cognitive function in infants.
- And researchers at the Child Evaluation and Treatment Program in North Dakota discovered there were a higher proportion of autistic children who were breast fed at fewer frequencies and shorter duration than non-autistic children.
While the above information is interesting, here’s more studies looking at the possible health benefits of EPA, DHA, fish oil and autism in children:
EPA and DHA Reduce Autism Behavior in Children
Vienna, Austria – Researchers believe low omega 3 fatty acids levels may increase the risk for autistic behavior in some children.
Scientists conducted a double-blind, placebo-controlled study to determine the possible effects of EPA and DHA on thirteen (13) children, aged 5 – 17 years of age with autism symptoms such as aggressiveness, temper tantrums or self-inflicted injuries.
The children received 1.5 grams of fatty acids which provided 840 mg. of eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and 700 mg. of docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) for a six week period.
Using a behavior checklist, researchers found a marked difference in behavior patterns in the children that received the EPA and DHA.
Certain Fatty Acids Reduce Autism Behavior by 26%
Sweden – A study published in the March 2009 Issue of Journal of Attention Disorders looked at the relationship between omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids on seventy five (75) children aged 8 – 18 years of age.
The children were randomly given either a placebo or the omega fatty acids for 3 months. After the 3 month period, all of the children received the fatty acid supplement for an additional 3 months.
Researchers found that 26% of the children who received the healthy fatty acids showed a 24% reduction in ADHD symptoms. At 6 months, 47% of all children who were given the omega fatty acid supplements showed similar improvement.
Are Low Omega 3 Levels Linked to Increased Risk for Autism?
Researchers believe there’s a possible connection between low essential fatty acids and a risk for autistic-type behavior.
- Scientists in Belgium found some autistic children have lower levels of EPA and DHA compared to non-autistic children.
- Animal studies at the Oregon Health Sciences University in Portland found monkeys displaying autistic-type behaviors were deficient in omega 3 fats.
- Researchers in France compared the EPA and DHA blood levels between children with autism and mentally handicapped children. They found autistic children had lower total omega 3 fatty acid levels and lower DHA levels than mentally handicapped children.
Scientists at Purdue University throw more support behind the essential fatty acids and autism link:
- They compared behavior, learning and health problems of young boys with low and normal omega-3 levels. The boys with low omega 3 levels displayed more behavioral problems, temper tantrums, and learning difficulties than boys with normal omega-3 levels.
Another study using fish oils on autism showed promising results:
- Children diagnosed with either autism or Asperger’s Syndrome were given a daily supplement of fish oil and borage oil for 90 days. At the end of 90 days, the children on fish oil showed significant improvements in their language and learning abilities.
Dr. Barry Sears, a leading authority on how diet can affect hormones, genetics and inflammation, explains how increasing dietary intake of omega 3 fatty acids may help reduce autism and ADHD symptoms:
Is There a Link Between Diet and Childhood Autism?
Food scientists agree that our diets are lacking in optimal essential fatty acids, EPA and DHA. Over the last 20th century, researchers have found an inverse relationship between Western society’s reduced consumption of fish and a corresponding increase in autism rates.
With the current belief that a diet low in essential fats may increase the risk for autistic behavior, researchers at the University of Western Ontario recently confirmed a ‘gut-brain connection’ to autism. Scientists discovered the digestive system produces compounds linked to autistic behavior which supports the theory that what children eat can alter their brain function.
Parents of autistic children may have already done some of the research for these scientists….The website Autism-Awareness.Org has an interesting forum on autism where people share their ideas with others. There have been a few postings by parents that have had some success using omega 3 supplements and fish oil for autism symptoms.
With continued research, it’s hopeful that parents of autistic children will be given additional tools and information to help them effectively nurture and guide their children.
Fish Oil Autism Research References:
Plasma fatty acid levels in autistic children. Prostaglandins, Leukotrienes and Essential Fatty Acids Volume 65, Issue 1, July 2001, Pages 1-7
Omega-3 Fatty Acids Supplementation in Children with Autism: A Double-blind Randomized, Placebo-controlled Pilot Study. Biological Psychiatry – Volume 61, Issue 4, 15 February 2007, Pages 551-553. Advances in Understanding and Treating Autism Spectrum Disorders
Omega-3/Omega-6 Fatty Acids for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. A Randomized Placebo-Controlled Trial in Children and Adolescents. Journal of Attention Disorders March 2009 vol. 12 no. 5 394-401
The Impact of Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids in Reducing Child Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity Disorders. Journal of Attention Disorders November 2010 vol. 14 no. 3 232-246
Behavioral Effects of Omega-3 Fatty Acid Supplementation in Young Adults with Severe Autism: An Open Label Study. Archives of Medical Research Volume 39, Issue 7, October 2008