VIENNA, AUSTRIA. Autism (autistic spectrum disorder) is characterized by severe tantrums, aggression, self-injurious behaviour, hyperactivity, and repetitive behaviour (stereotypy). The condition is often treated with medications like haloperidol and risperidone, but both of these drugs can have unacceptable adverse effects.
There is increasing clinical evidence that fatty acid deficiencies and imbalances are important contributing factors to dyslexia, dyspraxia, attention deficit disorders, and other childhood neuro-developmental disorders. There is also anecdotal evidence that children with autism may benefit from supplementation with fish oils. Based on these findings researchers at the Medical University of Vienna decided to carry out a clinical trial of fish oil supplementation in autistic children. Their double-blind, placebo-controlled pilot trial included 13 boys (10-15 years of age) who were attending a specialized daycare center for long-term treatment of autistic children. The boys were assigned to receive either 7 grams/day of menhaden fish oil (providing 840 mg/day of EPA [eicosapentaenoic acid] and 700 mg/day of DHA [docosahexaenoic acid]) or 7 grams/day of coconut oil (in capsules) for a 6-week period.
Their scores for irritability, social withdrawal, stereotypy, hyperactivity, and inappropriate speech were evaluated at entry to the study and after 6 weeks of supplementation. Irritability and social withdrawal scores were not affected by the treatment, however, both stereotypy and hyperactivity scores decreased significantly in the fish oil group over the 6-week period. The researchers conclude that their study provides preliminary evidence that fish oils may be an effective treatment for children with autism.
Amminger, G. Paul, et al. Omega-3 fatty acids supplementation in children with autism. Biological Psychiatry, Vol. 64, No. 4, February 15, 2007, pp. 551-53