With just two prescription drugs approved to treat the symptoms of autism, it’s no wonder that an estimated three-quarters of children with the disorder have used complementary and alternative medicines, from massages and biofeedback to vitamins and other dietary supplements.
Among the most popular supplements touted for autism are omega-3 fatty acids, which are thought to help correct a deficiency in children with the disorder. But few rigorous studies have tested their effectiveness. The evidence so far suggests that omega-3 fatty acids don’t improve social interactions, communication, repetitive behaviors, hyperactivity or irritability, according to a report published 9 November by the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews.
Omega-3s are unquestionably important for normal growth, metabolism and a healthy immune system. The body doesn’t make these fatty acids, so they must be absorbed from foods such as fish oils and flaxseed. It’s well known that people who don’t get enough of the fatty acids have a higher risk of heart and inflammatory diseases.
What’s less clear is their role in the brain.
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