Autism is characterized by impairment in social interaction, delayed language, and restricted patterns of behavior. Autistic children frequently have serious behavioral disturbances, such as self-injurious behavior, aggression, and tantrums. From 1992-2003, the incidence of autism in the U.S. has increased by 435%, autism affects 1 in 250 U.S. children, and incurs a worldwide cost of $90 billion each year.
Parents have found that prescription drugs have limited success. A new study has found that omega-3 fatty acids, found in previous research to maintain brain health, may also be helpful to autistic children.
Researchers gave 13 autistic children aged 5-17 years either 1.5 grams of omega-3 fatty acids per day or placebo for 6 weeks. At the end of the study they used the Aberrant Behavior Checklist (ABC) to gauge the omega-3 fatty acid effectiveness on autistic symptoms.
Researchers found no adverse side effects in either group, however the omega-3 group had significant decreases in hyperactivity and repetitive movements (called steriotypy) compared to placebo. After citing previous research showing benefits on brain function with up to 10 grams of omega-3 fatty acids per day, they found this study to “suggest that omega-3 fatty acids may be effective and well-tolerated in children with autism.”
Amminger GP. Omega-3 Fatty Acids Supplementation in Children with Autism: A Double-blind Randomized, Placebo-controlled Pilot Study. Biol Psych 2006. In Press, Corrected Proof, Available online 22 August 2006.