Omega 3 fatty acids are found in meats and eggs but are at their highest concentration in fish. They are vital to healthy brain functions and activity, and when there isn’t enough of it, the brain undergoes significant cognitive delays and impairments. Twenty years ago, doctors began prescribing fish oil capsules and diets heavy in fish for elderly patients with signs of memory loss, dementia and Alzheimers. Now, the studies on omega 3 fatty acids are being applied to autism and their potential effects at stopping aberrant behaviors( such as aggression.)
Studies from Austria, the United States, and all over the world have taken double blind groups of children with autism, ages three to twelve and everywhere in between, and put them through six to eight week studies. Half the group was given a placebo and the other half was given fish capsules. Behaviors were recorded and tracked for the study period to ascertain whether or not omega 3 fatty acid supplementation would actually be an effective treatment for the more problematic behaviors of autism. (See: http://www.clinicaltrials.gov/ct2/show/NCT00786799, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16920077)
Although the studies reflect some results, the final observation of the researchers involved stated that a more longitudinal study with many, many more test subjects were needed in order to have a more accurate conclusion of the effects of omega 3 fatty acids on the brains and behaviors of children with autism. With any and all articles regarding this one supplement, the conclusion is the same. However, since additional omega 3 in anyone’s diet isn’t a bad thing, it definitely can’t hurt children to consume an extra 540 to 2,320 mg per day. If nothing else, it works to stimulate healthy brain cell growth and improve cognitive processes. (See: http://autism.healingthresholds.com/therapy/essential-fatty-acids-efa?page=1)
The human body is able to manufacture many of the nutrients it needs naturally, but fatty acids aren’t part of that group. Humans need to get the right dose of omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids from the foods we consume. However, the average American consumes significantly more omega 6 fatty acids than is absolutely necessary, and not enough of the omega 3 fatty acids. In children with autism, it’s even more critical that their diets be reasonably balanced, but because many of them can’t tolerate foods with certain textures or orders and won’t eat them, the nutrients they so desperately need can’t enter their bodies and brains.
Pediatricians highly recommend fish oil capsules if children will swallow them. Older children might, but younger children with autism either can’t or won’t because they tend to smell. Vitamin and health supplement manufacturers have found ways to make the fish oil capsules less smelly, and can even make them taste like a gummy or chewy candy. Parents who are desperate to get their children to try omega 3 therapy can check with local pharmacies to see if they can buy the chewable, non-odorous and sweet fish oil capsules. They might have to be a special order item, but they are quick to ship and the pharmacies are pretty good at calling the parents when the shipment comes in. Otherwise parents can order them online themselves from retailers like Amazon.com. Why should you love Amazon.com If you have a relative with Autism?
At Amazon.com, parents can find squeeze packets and gummies for omega 3 that have kids in mind. One company in particular, Coromega, even makes chocolate orange flavor. None of these have any hint of fish smell, and are pleasantly sweet and appealing to kids. For parents who also want to avoid gluten, dairy, yeast, starch and artificial flavors and colors, no other company has this one beat.
As for future studies of omega 3 on the brains of children with autism, there may be a few more in the works in the next ten years. California has often lead the way in fringe science, proving many ideas as valid and not junk science. A couple of studies are expected to take place in Los Angeles, but parents and their autistic children will have to go through a rigorous screening process before being allowed into the study. Since Los Angeles is far away from most of the United States, it’s unlikely that parents will travel that far to participate, leaving the study groups to be compiled mostly of west coast residents.
Other studies are splitting off to test DHA and omega 3, in the form of EPA, together to see if the combination of two necessary brain chemicals can make twice the impact. In the last ten years, baby formula companies have added DHA to all of their cans of formula per the FDA’s approval once it was shown how vitally important DHA was to eye, bone and brain development. Mothers who choose not to breastfeed were unaware of how little nutrition their babies were getting in the standard can of formula prior to the addition of DHA. Now the FDA has remedied that, giving the formula babies as much of a fighting chance at health as babies who are breastfed. Assuming that DHA and omega 3 fatty acid supplementation separately impacts autistic brains, how much more of an impact would both supplements have? This is the newest question and line of research that scientists hope to pursue.
For parents who have younger children with autism but are looking for the combined DHA and omega 3/ EPA treatments now, vitamin and health supplement companies are way ahead of the curve. Parents can buy the combined supplements in pill or gummy form for their children now and run their own in house experiment. They just have to have expectations that fall within the line of reason; it’s not a cure, it’s a supplement to help their children.