Treating ADHD with Omega 3 Fish Oil Versus Ritalin

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Some Ritalin Facts

Dangers of the standard treatment for Attention Deficit Disorder:

The drug most commonly used to treat attention deficit disorder, Methylphenidate (MPH), commonly sold as Ritalin, has some serious effects and implications. It is actually a form of the street drug speed. Here are some points regarding Ritalin:

  • Ritalin is involved in major drug trafficking groups in the USA for resale on the illicit market.
  • USA manufactures and consumes five times more MPH than the rest of the world combined
  • MPH production has increased almost six fold since 1990
  • Ritalin causes cancer.

The long term effects of prescribing this pharmaceutical form of speed to persons who are still developing is simply not understood. Brain development continues right into the thirties, and perhaps beyond. What will the effect of this drug upon the Ritalin generation as it ages? We simply do not know.

ADHD Treatment with Omega 3 Fish Oil

Using fish oil to tread ADHD in studies, researchers have looked at adding just 3 - 5 grams EPA and DHA per day to the diet of children. It has been suggested that if you try this type of approach, you might as well not even bother to look for results for 6 months. This is because it takes so long to switch the fatty acid profile of the cellular membranes. This switch would need to happen before changes could be detected. I would ask, why not supplement with a larger quantity of EFA to the child’s diet?

Essential Fatty Acids are simply nutrients. The average junk food saturated and trans fat content of the average child is far in excess of just 3 - 5 grams per day. What does need to happen is the saturated fatty acids need to be reduced in the diet, and the trans fatty acids need to be eliminated. In their place essential fatty acids need to be provided.

Healthfood store varieties of unrefined vegetable oils (mostly omega-6 containing oils) would be safe if used with equal amounts of flax seed oil (omega-3 containing oil). Margarines, supermarket oils and regular supermarket salad dressings would not be safe to use. Olive oils constitute healthy additions to a trans fat free diet, but do not supply essential fatty acids which means olive oil would be a helpful addition to the diet, provided that omega-3 and omega-6 oils were still used. Please read the articles in diet and nutrition entitled “How to Find and Ban Trans Fats from Your Diet” in Diet, Nutrition & Healthy Eating and also “Tips on Supplementing Omega-3’s Using Flax Seed Oil” in Diet, Nutrition & Healthy Eating.

Also, I would add that you could also hope to see a much more rapid cellular change by this removal of trans fats from diet. Trans fats damage the enzymes which will convert ALA to EPA, to DHA. This interferes with prostaglandin synthesis, and in ADHD children this may be of greater importance than it is with non-ADHD children. Trans fats also compromise the structure off the cell membrane, leading to relatively stiff cell membranes which do not support the vital enzymes on their surfaces adequately. What is needed are fluid cell membranes that provide stability to the membrane enzymes and this is what the DHA will bring allow.

Vitamin B3, B6, C, zinc, and Mg are also recommended as supplements to support enzyme activity. These nutrients would support the efficient use of DHA by the body, and are therefor indispensable from a nutritional point of view.

I would suggest that you employ mainly fish and fish oil to provide the essential fatty acids at first and take care to eliminate foods which typically worsen the condition. In most cases of EFA deficiency conditions, flax seed oil really is the EFA source of choice, even if somewhat misunderstood. However in the case of ADHD it is possible that there is a problem in converting the EFA into DHA, which makes it one case in which you might want to use fish and or fish oil alone, at first, as the primary provider of the essential fatty acids. If you were to reduce the fish oil supply later later on, and try to use just flax seed, it would be important that you would do so under careful observation since it is possible that ADHD children are not able to convert the LNA omega-3 in flax seed oil into the DHA omega-3 fatty acid in which they are so deplete.