Omega-3 And Fish Oil For Autism

Omega-3 fatty acids and fish oil are effective for the treatment of autism. Find out why in this article.

What is autism?

Autism is a neurodevelopmental disorder defined by1,2,3:

  • Social withdrawal
  • Impairments in social communication and interaction
  • Repetitive behavior

It encompasses a group of heterogeneous disorders and is therefore called autism spectrum disorder in the medical jargon3.

Autism affects 1-2% of all children born in developed countries2.

Increase in autism cases

The number of autism cases has increased worldwide during the last decades3.

In the US, it has increased about three times between 2000 and 20164.

Boys versus girls

Boys are three times more likely than girls to be diagnosed with autism4,5.

However, girls who meet the criteria for autism are at risk of being misdiagnosed with the current tools5,6.

What are the root causes of autism?

In the past, autism research has focused on genetics.

Nevertheless, recent studies indicate that genetic defects only account for a minority of cases (10-20%)3,7.

Autism most likely occurs from interactions between genetic predisposition and environmental factors7.

Environmental factors

Industrial chemicals like toxic metals, PCBs, and toluene are recognized causes of neurodevelopmental disorders and brain dysfunction8.

Studies have shown that exposure to toxic metals during prenatal and postnatal life increases the risk for autism1,2,3,9.

These metals include1,2,3,9:

  • Antimony
  • Aluminum
  • Arsenic
  • Lead
  • Mercury
  • Tin

Related: How To Detox Aluminum From The Body

A deficiency of essential nutrient elements

Furthermore, a deficiency of essential elements during fetal and postnatal development also increases autism risk.

Amongst those elements we count2,7,9:

  • Calcium
  • Copper
  • Manganese
  • Nickel
  • Zinc

Some metals like zinc, manganese, and copper are necessary for neurodevelopment but can be toxic in excessive amounts7.

Omega-3 and fish oil for autism

Natural treatment for autism and Asperger syndrome.

Medications for autism either lack effectiveness or have multiple side effects10.

Therefore, the possibility of using nutritional supplements to treat autistic symptoms has received much interest10.

Is omega-3 (fish oil) good for autism?

Multiple studies have shown that omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids decrease the risk for autism.

Prenatal protection

Researchers based a study on 258 mothers who already had a child with autism and were planning a pregnancy or were pregnant11.

They reported that the mothers consuming more omega-3 fatty acids during the second half of the pregnancy were 40% less likely to have children with autism11.

Postnatal improvement

An analysis that included 194 children revealed that omega-3 had a positive effect on social withdrawal, stereotypy, and hyperactivity10.

Also, a study involving 41 children and adolescents with autism in Singapore revealed that omega-3 fatty acids supplementation improved core symptoms of autism and attention problems12.

Furthermore, an investigation that included ten children with autism reported that of the nine subjects who completed the study, eight showed improvement13.

Besides, a study based on 111 New Zealand children with autism indicated that omega-3 fatty acids (or vitamin D or both) reduced irritability, a common symptom of autism14.

How many types of omega-3 are there?

While there are five different types of omega-3 fatty acids15, the three main types found in the human diet are16:

  • Alpha-linolenic acid (ALA)
  • Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA)
  • Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA)

Availability of omega-3s

ALA is found in nut and plant oils, whereas EPA and DHA are present in seafood15,16.

Fish do not produce EPA and DHA. Instead, they eat single-cell marine organisms (plankton) that synthesize them16.

Humans and omega-3s

Although humans cannot produce omega-3 fatty acids from scratch, they can convert ALA to EPA and DHA16,17.

However, the production of EPA and DHA is limited to rates of less than 4%15.

Hence incorporating EPA and DHA into the daily diet is important15.

Mechanism of omega-3 and fish oil for autism

What is the underlying mechanism of action of omega-3 fatty acids and fish oil for treating autism?

Nerve cells require DHA

The human brain contains high concentrations of omega-3 fatty acids12,18.

DHA is, namely, the major component of nerve cells membranes18,19,20.

Also, DHA is necessary for fetal brain and nervous system development19,20.

Furthermore, omega-3s also exert an anti-inflammatory effect16.

Omega-3 versus omega-6 ratio

Three studies have reported low levels of omega-3 fatty acids in children with autism16.

Besides, a decrease in omega-3 versus omega-6 fatty acids ratio has also been reported in other psychiatric disorders including17,19,21,22:

  • Hyperactivity disorder
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Schizophrenia
  • Depression

Research suggests that dietary behavior changes in the last decade have led to an imbalance in omega-3 versus omega-6 fatty acids, increasing autism cases17.

Which omega is good for autism?

Although both omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids are necessary for the nervous system, a higher intake of omega-3 is essential for autism recovery19,37 .

Omega-3 for heavy metal removal

Bentonite heavy metal metals detox cleanse.

Regulation of the methylation cycle

Omega-3 fatty acids regulate several enzymes involved in the methylation cycle23,24.

The methylation cycle is a process that regulates gene expression and protein function25.

It also neutralizes heavy metals via glutathione production25.

Increase in glutathione production

Glutathione is the human body’s most powerful antioxidant.

By increasing glutathione production26,27,28, omega-3 fatty acids help the body get rid of heavy metals causing autism.

Studies have, to wit, shown that thanks to its high content of omega-3 fatty acids, flaxseed oil neutralizes heavy metals such as29,30,31,32:

  • Cadmium
  • Arsenic
  • Lead

Related: 10 Best Heavy Metal Detox Supplements

What supplements contain omega-3s?

Dietary supplements high in omega-3 fatty acids include:

  • Fish oil (menhaden, herring, and cod liver) is rich in omega-3 fatty acids33, specifically in EPA and DHA15,34.
  • Krill oil is also high in the long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids EPA and DHA15.
  • Flaxseed oil is the richest plant-based dietary source of omega-3 fatty acids, in particular ALA15,30.
  • Chia seed oil and walnut oil are also abundant sources of short-chain ALA fatty acids15.

Related: 20 Health Benefits Of Flaxseed Oil And Side Effects

What foods are high in omega-3 (other than fish)?

  • Fatty fish (menhaden, herring, and salmon)15
  • Other seafood (shrimp, crab, lobster, and mussels)15
  • Green leafy vegetables (raw spinach, kale, broccoli)35
  • Seeds and nuts (flaxseeds, chia seeds, walnuts)15

What type of omega is best for autism?

The most biologically active omega-3 fatty acids are EPA and DHA37.

Therefore, we recommend the consumption of fatty fish in the diet and supplementation with fish oil.

Green leafy vegetables, seeds, nuts, and flaxseed oil are good alternatives for vegans.


Can I give omega-3 to my child?

Omega-3 fatty acids are vital to the neurodevelopment of your child.

As such, they will enhance your child’s brain and nervous system functions19,20.

How much fish oil for autism?

The National Health Institute recommends the following adequate intakes for omega-3s36:

Birth-12 months0.5 g0.5 g
1-3 years0.7 g0.7 g
4-8 years0.9 g0.9 g
9-13 years1.2 g1 g
14-51+ years1.6 g1.1 g

Is omega-3 and fish oil safe during pregnancy?

The consumption of omega-3s in the diet is essential during pregnancy37.

These fatty acids are building blocks of the fetal brain, retina, and nervous system 37,19,20.

Furthermore, omega-3s may also influence the length of gestation and prevent perinatal depression37.

How much omega-3 and fish oil should I take during pregnancy?

NHI recommends the following adequate intakes for omega-3s during pregnancy and lactation36:

14-51+ years1.4 g1.3 g

When should I start taking omega-3 and fish oil in pregnancy?

Omega-3s are particularly important during the second half of pregnancy for autism prevention11.

Which omega-3 is best for pregnancy?

DHA and EPA are best for pregnancy37.

Research recommends the consumption of fish or supplementation with fish oil37.

Here are the fish and other seafood to consume and avoid during pregnancy37:

Fish to consumeFish to avoid
PollockKing mackerel
ScallopsLocal river fish

Contamination with heavy metals

Fish may be contaminated with heavy metals or other pollutants.

However, fish oil capsules are nearly devoid of mercury and PCBs37.

Fish oil suppliers are, namely, compelled to purify them of environmental toxins.

Regarding the consumption of fish and other seafood, the health benefits outweigh the drawbacks34,37.

Related: 13 Health Benefits of A Bentonite Clay Detox Drink

Side effects of omega-3 and fish oil for autism

Omega-3 supplementation is well-tolerated and does not cause any adverse side effects19,12.

However, these fatty acids can make you feel tired and dizzy in the beginning.

It is due to their cleansing effect on the liver and is also known as a Herxheimer Reaction.

With time, on the contrary, they will make you feel more energized and focused.

Summary: Omega-3 and fish oil for autism

Studies have shown that omega-3 fatty acids and fish oil are good for preventing and treating autism.

The essential fatty acids EPA and DHA found in fish oil are necessary for the functioning of nerve cells and brain development.

Besides, omega-3 fatty acids also have anti-inflammatory attributes.

Furthermore, they also help the body get rid of heavy metals, which are one of the root causes of autism.

Similar Posts