Dietary Supplementation of Omega-3 Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids in Autism

  • Pierluigi Politi
  • Hellas Cena
  • Enzo Emanuele


Autism is a behaviorally defined neurodevelopmental disorder characterized by social and communication deficits, accompanied by repetitive and stereotyped behaviors. In general, it is believed that autism is a complex multifactorial disorder and has no single cause. Accordingly, growing evidence supports the idea that this condition may be caused by several factors, including multigenic interactions and complex environmental contributions. Preliminary data have suggested that autism is associated with a reduced intake or cellular abundance of omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA). This chapter presents an overview of the existing clinical studies and case reports of omega-3 PUFA supplementation in autism. One placebo-controlled trial examining 13 autistic children treated with 1.5 g of omega-3 fatty acids or placebo for 6 weeks failed to demonstrate significant improvement in hyperactivity and stereotypy scores. Three uncontrolled studies and one case report suggested some improvements in the core features of ASD, whereas another uncontrolled study failed to confirm these findings. Side effects were generally mild or absent. While it is not currently possible to recommend omega-3 PUFA as either a mono- or adjunctive-therapy in autism, the available evidence is strong enough to justify continued study. Further work is required to determine whether autistic patients showing reduced levels of PUFA might specifically benefit from omega-3 supplementation.


Asperger Syndrome Pervasive Developmental Disorder Rett Syndrome Autistic Patient Gamma Linolenic Acid 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



Arachidonic acid


Aberrant behavior checklist


Assessment of basic language and learning skills


Autism diagnostic interview-revised


Alpha-linolenic acid


Autistic spectrum disorder


Asperger syndrome


Childhood autism rating scale


Docosahexaenoic acid


Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders


Eicosapentaenoic acid


Gamma-linolenic acid


Pervasive developmental disorders


Polyunsaturated fatty acids


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Health Sciences, Section of human nutrition and dieteticsUniversity of PaviaPaviaItaly

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