Could omega-3 help children with autism spectrum disorders?

 
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There are several movies (Mercury rising, Nell, Rain man, Adam, I am Sam, The boy who could fly…) and TV series (Alphas, Touch…) that have tried to feature autism. This has helped to understand this disorder, with more or less success, but also has led to misconceptions. Autism spectrum disorders are a group of developmental disorders that include a wide range of symptoms, skills, and levels of disability, which are recognized in the first two years of life. Children with a disorder of this kind often:

– Have social problems, that include difficulty communicating and interacting with others (including children of a similar age). For example: not enjoying situations that most children of their age like, being unusually intolerant of people entering their own personal space, preferring to play alone or with objects rather than people, avoiding eye contact, etc.

– Have restrictive/repetitive behaviors. For example: developing a strong specific interest in a particular subject or activity (such as numbers, details, or facts), flapping their hands, rocking back and forth, or flicking their fingers in a repetitive manner, etc.

In general, these children prefer to have a familiar routine and don’t like changes. Sometimes, they have a strong like or dislike of certain foods based on their texture or colour, show unusual sensory interests (for example: sniffing toys, objects or people), repeat words or phrases that they hear, have a speech that sounds very monotonous, are unable to understand sarcasm and metaphors (Do you remember the book “The curious incident of the dog in the night”?), etc.

Finally, it is estimated that 46% of these children have above average intelligence, are able to learn things in detail and remember information for long periods of time, and they can be excel at maths, science, music, or art.

As prevalence of autism is increasing, research on this field has also increased. Deficiency of omega-3 fatty acids have been linked to autism spectrum disorders, and it seems that supplementation of omega-3 may improve hyperactivity, lethargy, and repetitive movements in people with these disorders.

 

Bibliography:

Cheng YS, Tseng PT, Chen YW, et al. Supplementation of omega 3 fatty acids may improve hyperactivity, lethargy, and stereotypy in children with autism spectrum disorders: a meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Neuropsychiatr Dis Treat. 2017 Oct 4;13:2531-2543. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5634395/

National Institute of Mental Health. Autism Spectrum Disorder [Internet]. USA: National Institutes of Health [Última actualización: octubre 2016; fecha de consulta: noviembre de 2017]. Disponible en: https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/autism-spectrum-disorders-asd/index.shtml

NHS Choices. Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) [Internet]. Gov.UK (Fecha última atualización: junio 2016; fecha de consulta: noviembre 2017]. Disponible en: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/autism/symptoms/

 
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