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The purpose of this study was to assess long chain polyunsaturated fatty acid (LCPUFA) status in relation to socio-behavioral outcomes in children with Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (AD/HD). In a case-control design, plasma phospholipid fatty acid content was assessed in children aged 5–12 years with AD/HD and in typically functioning children. Dietary intakes of LCPUFAs arachidonic acid (AA; 20:4n6) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA; 22:6n3) were quantified using a four-day food record, polymorphisms were determined in FADS1 and FADS2, and socio-behavioral outcomes were assessed using the Conners 3 Parent Rating Scales in a cross section of children with AD/HD. Compared to typically functioning children, plasma AA and DHA were 40% lower in children with AD/HD. Median intake of AA, but not DHA, was higher in children with AD/HD compared to typically functioning children. Polymorphisms in FADS1 (rs174546) and FADS2 (174575) were associated with higher plasma linoleic acid (LA; 18:2n6) level. Plasma DHA level was inversely associated with inattention score. Despite having an elevated intake of AA, children diagnosed with AD/HD have a reduction in plasma AA level which may be due in part to polymorphisms in the fatty acid desaturase (FADS) gene cluster or increased conversion to AA-derived metabolites. Increasing intake of DHA may ameliorate symptoms of inattention in AD/HD.


This article was originally published in Human Nutrition & Metabolism, volume 31, in 2023.

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