Proven: Krill Oil Improves Your Attention Span (and ADD/ADHD Kids)

December 20, 2010

Krill. Blue Whales LOVE it!

From Dr. Mercola

I first started hearing about the benefits of krill oil — a high-quality source of animal-based omega-3 fats – for attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) back in 2006. The following year, in 2007, a clinical study examining the effects of krill oil on adults diagnosed with ADHD also showed positive results. In that study, patients improved their ability to concentrate by an average of over 60 percent after taking a daily 500mg dose of krill oil for six months. They also reported a 50 percent improvement in planning skills, and close to 49 percent improvement in social skills. These latest findings, which involve children and teens with ADHD, have not yet been published, but the results are again very promising. Additional clinical follow-up studies are also planned, to further investigate the beneficial impact of krill oil on attention deficit disorder (ADD) and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). This is all great news! Granted, of the 4.5 million American children who have been diagnosed with ADHD, an estimated 20 percent have likely been misdiagnosed, but an enormous amount of children do have neurological problems – the exact cause of which has yet to be teased out by science.

Diet and Brain Health

Unfortunately, the conventional drug treatments most often employed can do far more harm than good. Safe, effective treatment options are sorely needed for the millions of children and adults stricken with ADHD. I’ve repeatedly said that one of the key factors to effectively treat ADHD is nutrition, and healthful omega-3 fats are a MAJOR component of a brain-healthy diet. We know the food choices of most people today are incredibly poor, and you simply cannot expect a child to have normal behavior if he is fed refined grains, sugars, processed foods loaded with chemicals and genetically engineered ingredients, and juices and sodas instead of pure water. Our modern diet also contains an overabundance of highly processed, damaged omega-6 fats while being deficient in omega-3’s. Not only are processed omega-6 fats harmful in and of themselves, but making matters even worse, they also interfere with your body’s attempt to utilize the tiny amount of omega-3 fats that it gets. When you add all these dietary factors together, neurological and behavioral issues are not far behind… You simply cannot have a healthy functioning brain when the proper ingredients to develop or maintain a healthy brain are not provided, and animal-based omega-3 fats are essential for a well-functioning brain.

Krill Oil Benefits Those with ADD/ADHD

Krill are at the bottom of the food chain. They feed on plankton.

Certainly, we already know omega-3 fats are essential for proper brain function and as I mentioned earlier, krill oil, specifically, has now been shown effective for both children and adults with ADHD. Previous research using fish oil has also confirmed that animal-based omega-3 fat can improve the symptoms of ADHD more effectively than drugs like Ritalin® and Concerta®! If that’s not cause for hope, I don’t know what is! This latest study included 18 boys, aged 7 through 11, who had been diagnosed with ADHD. The youngsters received daily krill oil supplements for a period of 13 weeks. When their EEG’s were compared to EEG patterns from a database of 400 other children with ADHD, the researchers were able to confirm beneficial changes in the children’s EEG pattern, and the parents also reported improved behavior. According to Hogne Vik MD, PhD: “This is an important observation identifying positive effects on the central nervous system (CNS) after supplementation of krill oil in humans. For the first time objective EEG-measurements—before and after a 90 day intervention period with krill oil—have confirmed observed improvements in a clinical CNS condition,” the NPI Center reports.

Omega-3 Deficiency and Hyperactivity

In this previous article, Theresa Gallagher discusses research from Purdue University, which found that children deficient in omega-3 had significantly higher incidence of hyperactivity, learning disorders, and behavioral problems. Part of the explanation for this is likely due to the fact that dopamine and serotonin both play a role in ADD/ADHD and other mood disorders, and your dopamine and serotonin receptors are composed of the animal-based omega-3 fat DHA. If you don’t have sufficient amounts of DHA in your blood, then your dopamine/serotonin receptors end up using man-made trans-fat molecules as a construction material instead. However, trans-fats (damaged omega-6 fats) are shaped differently than DHA: they are straight while DHA is curved. This causes your receptors to become deformed and not work very well. Now, if this scenario is repeated day after day, year after year, you could easily wind up with problems like depression and problems concentrating. But this problem can be far more severe than that in a child whose brain is still developing, which is why a healthful diet during the prenatal and infant stage is so incredibly important.

Signs of Omega-3 Deficiency

Omega-3 deficiencies have also been linked to a number of other health problems, such as:

As related by Gallagher, there are more than 2,000 scientific studies demonstrating the wide range of problems associated with Omega-3 deficiencies. Remember, the ideal ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 fats is about 1:1. But our Western diet, so chock full of processed fast food, has skewed this ratio to about 1:20 or even 1:50! Common signs that you have an imbalance in these two fats include:

Dry skin Alligator skin “Chicken skin” on backs of arms
Dandruff Lowered immunity Dry eyes
Frequent urination Fatigue Poor wound healing
Irritability Dry, unmanageable hair Frequent infections
Attention deficit Hyperactivity Learning problems
Soft nails Brittle, easily frayed nails Patches of pale skin on cheeks
Allergies Excessive thirst Cracked skin on heels or fingertips

All Omega-3 Fats are Not Created Equal

Many insist that omega-3 from plant-based sources (ALA) are interchangeable with animal-based omega-3 (EPA and DHA), but this is simply not the case. Plant-based omega-3 fats are highly beneficial and should also be consumed, but the evidence is very clear that they are not an acceptable substitute for animal-based omega-3 fats. This is primarily related to the fact that your body does not easily convert the ALA in plant-based fats to the longer fats of EPA and DHA needed for brain and heart health. And if you have diabetes, are overweight, have high blood pressure or high cholesterol or are elderly, your body has even more difficulty converting these fats. That said, even among animal-based omega-3 fats, there are differences that can impact performance.

What’s the Best Type of Animal-Based Omega-3 Fat?

In a perfect world, you’d get all the animal-based omega-3s you need from eating seafood. Regrettably, industrial pollution has contaminated most of the world’s fish stocks with a variety of dangerous toxins like mercury and PCBs. This leaves marine oils, mainly purified fish oil, or krill oil, as alternatives. Personally, I take krill oil every day, and I’m convinced that it’s the best option for most people, for several reasons.

For more in-depth information about the inherent benefits of krill oil over fish oil, please see my recent interview with industry expert Dr. Rudi Moerck.

Additional Strategies to Relieve ADHD Symptoms

The drug companies PAY your doctor a commission to drug your kid. Whose best interest is that? Can't be your kid's.

It is my sincere hope that people will begin to realize that drug therapy, if at all necessary, should be a very last resort, after all other options have been exhausted – especially when it comes to behavioral problems such as ADHD. Clearly, animal-based omega-3 such as krill oil should be high on your list of natural treatment strategies. But there are also a number of other lifestyle changes that can significantly help. So please, before you consider drugs, consider implementing the following strategies first:

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