Long chain omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids in the treatment of psychiatric illnesses in children and adolescents

Authors

  • Edward H. Clayton,

    Corresponding author
    1. Nutraceuticals Research Group, University of Newcastle, Callaghan, NSW, Australia
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  • Tanya L. Hanstock,

    1. The Bipolar Program, Hunter New England Area Health Service, Newcastle, NSW, Australia
    2. Department of Psychology, University of Newcastle, Callaghan, NSW, Australia
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  • Manohar L. Garg,

    1. Nutraceuticals Research Group, University of Newcastle, Callaghan, NSW, Australia
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  • Philip L. Hazell

    1. Central Clinical School, University of Sydney, NSW, Australia
    2. Discipline of Psychiatry, School of Medical Practice and Population Health, University of Newcastle, Callaghan, NSW, Australia
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Dr Edward Clayton, Research Fellow, Nutraceuticals
Research Group, Room 305B, Medical Sciences
Building, University of Newcastle, Callaghan,
NSW 2305, Australia.
Tel: +61 249 215 343;
Fax: +61 249 212 028;
E-mail: edward.clayton@newcastle.edu.au

Abstract

Objective:  Long chain omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (LCn-3PUFA) are in increasing use in the general population to treat health problems. The objective of the current article is to review the evidence for the rationale and benefit of LCn-3PUFA in the treatment of common psychiatric disorders in children and adolescents.

Methods:  A search of Psychlit, PubMed and Cochrane Databases was conducted using the terms child, adolescent, bipolar, depression, psychosis, first-episode psychosis, schizophrenia, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), autism, psychiatric, omega-3, n-3, docosahexaenoic acid and eicosapentaenoic acid. Further studies were identified from the bibliographies of published reviews.

Results:  One small randomized controlled trial with LCn-3PUFA supplementation in depression in children found a small beneficial effect over placebo. Four placebo-controlled trials showed uncertain benefit of LCn-3PUFA for ADHD. Single placebo-controlled trials showed no benefit in autism or bipolar disorder. There is an absence of studies examining benefit for first-episode psychosis or schizophrenia in children and adolescents.

Conclusions:  While children and adolescents are receiving LCn-3PUFA for a range of psychiatric indications, there is only evidence of likely benefit for unipolar depression.

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