Research has identified that children with autism, PDD and ADHD have complicated issues with omega 3 & 6 fatty acids including decreased usage, absorption and transfer of active elements into the cell for use to support development. Nordic Naturals is one of the leading companies in essential fatty acid production and research. If you are interested in the research articles supporting the use of DHA, EPA and GLA in treatment of autism, PDD and ADHD, visit www.omega-research.com for more information.
Essential Fatty Acids like fish oils and cod liver oil are necessary fats that children and adults cannot synthesize, and must be obtained through diet. Essential fatty acids are long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids derived from linolenic, linoleic, and oleic acids. There are three families of essential fatty acids include:
- Omega 3 fatty acids – most commonly known as fish oils, cod liver oil, DHA and EPA
- Omega 6 fatty acids – most commonly known as evening primrose oil or GLA
- Omega 9 fatty acids are “non-essential” because the body can make small amounts
Omega 3 fatty acids like fish oils and cod liver oil are derived from linolenic acid. Linolenic acid is converted into two important substances, DHA and EPA. DHA is essential for growth and EPA helps with regulation of inflammation. Children with autism, PDD and ADHD have been shown to have DHA deficiency. Supplementation results in improved cognitive, social, language and behavioural development.
Omega 6 fatty acids like evening primrose oil contain GLA and are from linoleic acid. Essential fatty acids like DHA and GLA support development of the digestive tract, brain, nerves, immune, respiratory and cardiovascular system. The human body needs omega 3 fatty acids and omega 6 fatty acids to manufacture and repair cell membranes, enabling the cells to obtain optimum nutrition and expel harmful waste products.
A primary function of essential fatty acids like DHA, GLA and EPA is the production of prostaglandins, which regulate inflammation and play a role in immune function by encouraging the body to fight infection. Essential fatty acids are also needed for proper growth in children, particularly for neural development and maturation of sensory systems, with male children having higher needs than females. It is very difficult for children, especially children with autism, PDD or ADHD, to convert essential fatty acids to their active form which is why supplementation, especially with EPA and DHA, is very important.
Essential fatty acid deficiency is common in North American children, particularly omega 3 deficiency. An ideal intake ratio of omega 6 to omega 3 fatty acids is between 1:1 and 4:1, with most North American childre obtaining a ratio between 10:1 and 25:1. Essential fatty acid deficiency and imbalance between omega 6 fatty acids and omega 3 fatty acids is linked with develomental disorders because they both create and perpetuate inflammation. We know that a causative factor in ASD and ADHD is inflammation. Studies have that the overwhelming majority of children with developmental disorders have DHA deficiency and inflammation from lack of EPA.
The best source of omega 3 and omega 6 essential fats in children with autism, PDD and ADHD is pharmaceutical supplements. Other sources are difficult for children with developmental disorders to convert properly and/or have contamination issues. Fish, like humans, accumulate toxins in the fat cells that surround organs. Essential fatty acids must be processed to remove these toxins when they are made into supplements. There are very few companies in the world that produce pharmaceutical grade fish oil free of heavy metals, pesticides, PCBs and other harmful toxins.