Study under review: Reduced Symptoms of Inattention After Dietary Omega-3 Fatty Acid Supplementation in Boys with and without Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder
If you skim the headlines of major research journals, sometimes it seems l ike there’s nothing that omega-3s can’t do. Other times, they seem overrated. Since this is the fourth time Study Deep Dives have covered omega-3 fatty acids in recent history, we won’t bore you with too many details. But, in case you missed it, here’s a very brief primer:
Omega-3 fatty acids are named for their double bond (making the fatty acid “unsaturated,” since it has fewer hydrogen atoms than the maximum) that is three carbons from the omega, or end of the chain. Omega-3s are found in fish and some plants, like flax and walnuts. Both of the omega-3s used in this study, docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) come from fish sources rather than plants, and are critical for early brain development. These fatty acids are added to many commercial baby formulas, to mimic the high levels found in breastmilk.
The study under review examined the effects of omega-3 supplementation on the symptoms of Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). Formerly known as ADD or Attention Deficit Disorder, the 1987 revision of the gold standard for psychiatric and mental disorders, known as the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, relabeled the disorder ADHD. An additional revision in 1994 classified patients into either the ‘hyperactive-impulsive’ subtype, ‘inattentive’ subtype, or ‘combined’ subtype based on their specific symptoms. ADHD is one of the most commonly diagnosed childhood disorders, affecting as many as 11% of children in the U.S., or about 6.4 million. The increasing prevalence of ADHD is shown in Figure 1. Medications for ADHD are primarily (and perhaps paradoxically) central nervous system stimulants, with methylphenidate being the most commonly prescribed drug. One of the hypothesized causes of ADHD is lower dopamine production, which may result in unnecessary firing of neurons that are unrelated to the task the brain is trying to complete. The drug allows the decreased levels of dopamine and norepinephrine in the brain to be used more effectively because it blocks reuptake receptors, thus enhancing the functionality of the neurons in the prefrontal cortex that are responsible for cognitive function (check out the sidebar for more on this).
Other Articles in Issue #12 (October 2015)
Eat less, live more
Animal trials suggest that calorie restriction may extend lifespan. This is the longest human trial conducted thus far on the topic, and serves to inform calorie restriction’s health impacts and feasability.
Am I less hungry after I eats me spinach?
The gut is a hot weight loss topic, even aside from the microbiome – some pharmaceutical drugs attempt to manipulate hormones or fat digestion in order to spur weight loss. What if an extract of spinach could also impact these factors?
Sugar Wars, Episode 2: “Fructose Strikes Back”
Few food components have been demonized as much as fructose in the past decade. With fructose being presumed guilty in metabolic syndrome and heart disease, this systematic review sheds light on it’s actual impact on blood lipids.
The case of the misleading yohimbe labels
What’s actually in a supplement bottle can be a mystery. These intrepid researchers investigated the actual contents of yohimbe bottles in order to see if this popular but possibly sometimes quasi-legal supplement is more (or less) than meets the eye.
- Interview: Robert Krikorian Ph.D.
- Interview: Trevor Kashey, Ph.D.
From jelly to muscle: collagen and body composition
Collagen has long been equated to junk protein, at least if you’re looking to gain muscle. Could it be underrated for this purpose? A trial of older men tested collagen protein to see if it could boost muscle gain and fat loss.
Throwdown, round 1: plant vs animal protein for metabolic syndrome
The DASH diet is frequently tested in clinical trials, and often performs well. But the diet’s formulation includes strong limitations on red meat, which may be based on outdated evidence. This study compared animal-protein rich diets with a typical DASH diet.
Can omega-3s modulate the mind-muscle connection?
While strength gains are usually associated with protein and muscle-related ergogenics, the nervous system isn’t targeted as often. This study explored a different type of omega-3 source (seal oil) for neuromuscular exercise effects.