I wish I could say that omega-3s cure autism.
Really, I do.
But there aren’t conclusive, definitive studies that show that. There are suggestive studies, sure. And there’s a ton of anecdotal evidence (such as the Daily Mail story “How Fish Oil Unlocked My Autistic Son”(1)
But something the average, conventional, “Show me the science” kind of doctor would accept as 100% proof?
However, that’s a far cry from saying that omega-3s don’t work. Or that you shouldn’t be using them with your child.
Let me explain.
We know—and this is not controversial at all, it’s in every textbook—that the brain is 60% fat by dry weight. We know that the lion’s share of that fat is DHA, a long-chain omega-3 fatty acid found mainly in fish and fish oil. We know that low levels of omega-3s are found in virtually every condition you don’t want to have, from ADHD to depression to bipolar disorder to schizophrenia. (2)
We know that inflammation is one of the biggest promoters of every degenerative disease on the planet—diabetes, arthritis, heart disease, cancer, Alzheimer’s and obesity. And we know that omega-3 is one of the most anti-inflammatory molecules on earth.
Inflammation equals bad things happening in your brain (and body). Omega-3s equal anti-inflammatory firepower. Do the math.
We also know that there are powerful circuits in the body that connect the gut and the brain. (The majority of your serotonin is actually manufactured in the gut!). The brain and the gut “talk” to each other in all kinds of ways that are only now beginning to be understood. (3)
Inflammation in the gut—frequently caused by gluten—can lead to a host of problems (including leaky gut). Inflammation can be triggered by a host of things—gluten, medications, environmental toxins, sugar, and food additives are just a partial list.
Those inflammatory gut problems can and do ultimately affect mood, thinking, behavior and just about everything else you can think of.
I think omega-3s are possibly the most important supplement you could add to the diet of any child.
My guess is that it is particularly important with children who have any kind of challenges, particularly those, like autism, especially if made worse by inflammation.
- Stoll, The Omega-3 Connection (Fireside/ Simon and Schuster, 2001)
- Gershon, The Second Brain (Harper Collins, 1999)
This blog post was written by Jonny Bowden, PhD, CNS, (aka “The Nutrition Myth Buster”™). He is a board-certified nutritionist with a master’s degree in psychology. He’s the best-selling author of 15 books including The 150 Healthiest Foods on Earth, Living Low Carb, The Great Cholesterol Myth, and Smart Fat.