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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

Authors Cheng YS, Tseng PT, Chen YW, Stubbs B, Yang WC, Chen TY, Wu CK, Lin PY

Received 26 July 2017

Accepted for publication 1 September 2017

Published 4 October 2017 Volume 2017:13 Pages 2531—2543

DOI https://doi.org/10.2147/NDT.S147305

Checked for plagiarism Yes

Review by Single-blind

Peer reviewers approved by Prof. Dr. Roumen Kirov

Peer reviewer comments 2

Editor who approved publication: Dr Roger Pinder


Yu-Shian Cheng,1 Ping-Tao Tseng,1,2 Yen-Wen Chen,3 Brendon Stubbs,4–6 Wei-Chieh Yang,7 Tien-Yu Chen,8,9 Ching-Kuan Wu,1 Pao-Yen Lin10,11

1Department of Psychiatry, Tsyr-Huey Mental Hospital, Kaohsiung Jen-Ai’s Home, 2WinShine Clinics in Specialty of Psychiatry, 3Prospect Clinic for Otorhinolaryngology & Neurology, Kaohsiung, Taiwan, Republic of China; 4Physiotherapy Department, South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust, 5Health Service and Population Research Department, Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience, King’s College London, London, 6Faculty of Health, Social Care and Education, Anglia Ruskin University, Chelmsford, UK; 7Department of Pediatrics, DA-AN Women and Children Hospital, Tainan, 8Department of Psychiatry, Tri-Service General Hospital, Taipei, 9School of Medicine, National Defense Medical Center, Taipei, 10Department of Psychiatry, Kaohsiung Chang Gung Memorial Hospital, Chang Gung University College of Medicine, 11Institute for Translational Research in Biomedical Sciences, Kaohsiung Chang Gung Memorial Hospital, Kaohsiung, Taiwan, Republic of China

Aim: Deficiency of omega 3 fatty acids may be linked to autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Evidence about the potential therapeutic effects of supplementation of omega 3 fatty acids is lacking in ASD patients.
Methods: We searched major electronic databases from inception to June 21, 2017, for randomized clinical trials, which compared treatment outcomes between supplementation of omega 3 fatty acids and placebo in patients with ASD. An exploratory random-effects meta-analysis of the included studies was undertaken.
Results and conclusion: Six trials were included (n=194). Meta-analysis showed that supplementation of omega 3 fatty acids improved hyperactivity (difference in means =-2.692, 95% confidence interval [CI] =-5.364 to -0.020, P=0.048, studies =4, n=109), lethargy (difference in means =-1.969, 95% CI =-3.566 to -0.372, P=0.016, studies =4, n=109), and stereotypy (difference in means =-1.071, 95% CI =-2.114 to -0.029, P=0.044, studies =4, n=109). No significant differences emerged between supplementation of omega 3 fatty acids and placebo in global assessment of functioning (n=169) or social responsiveness (n=97). Our preliminary meta-analysis suggests that supplementation of omega 3 fatty acids may improve hyperactivity, lethargy, and stereotypy in ASD patients. However, the number of studies was limited and the overall effects were small, precluding definitive conclusions. Future large-scale randomized clinical trials are needed to confirm or refute our findings.

Keywords: poly-unsaturated fatty acid, omega 3, autism, pediatric

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