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Long chain omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids in the treatment of psychiatric illnesses in children and adolescents

  • Edward H. Clayton (a1), Tanya L. Hanstock (a2) (a3), Manohar L. Garg (a1) and Philip L. Hazell (a4) (a5)



Long chain omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (LCn-3PUFA) are in increasing use in the general population to treat health problems. The objective of the current article is to review the evidence for the rationale and benefit of LCn-3PUFA in the treatment of common psychiatric disorders in children and adolescents.


A search of Psychlit, PubMed and Cochrane Databases was conducted using the terms child, adolescent, bipolar, depression, psychosis, first-episode psychosis, schizophrenia, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), autism, psychiatric, omega-3, n-3, docosahexaenoic acid and eicosapentaenoic acid. Further studies were identified from the bibliographies of published reviews.


One small randomized controlled trial with LCn-3PUFA supplementation in depression in children found a small beneficial effect over placebo. Four placebo-controlled trials showed uncertain benefit of LCn-3PUFA for ADHD. Single placebo-controlled trials showed no benefit in autism or bipolar disorder. There is an absence of studies examining benefit for first-episode psychosis or schizophrenia in children and adolescents.


While children and adolescents are receiving LCn-3PUFA for a range of psychiatric indications, there is only evidence of likely benefit for unipolar depression.


Corresponding author

Dr Edward Clayton, Research Fellow, Nutraceuticals Research Group, Room 305B, Medical Sciences Building, University of Newcastle, Callaghan, NSW 2305, Australia. Tel: +61 249 215 343; Fax: +61 249 212 028; E-mail:


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