According to results of secondary analyses of 2 randomized controlled trials (RCTs), omega-3 (Ω3) supplementation in children with depression and bipolar disorder is associated with decreased impairment in executive functioning (EF).

The secondary analyses aimed to determine the effect of Ω3 alone as well as in combination with psychoeducational psychotherapy (PEP) on EF. During the 12-week RCTs, 95 children aged 7 to 14 years with mood disorders were randomized to receive either 2 capsules of Ω3 or placebo twice daily. PEP consisted of twice-weekly 50-minute sessions.

The study authors explained, “Analyses assess impact of interventions on the Behavior Rating Inventory of Executive Functioning (BRIEF) parent-report Global Executive Composite (GEC) and two subscales, Behavior Regulation (BRI) and Metacognition (MI) Indices.” 

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Analysis of aggregated data (combined and monotherapy) showed that patients receiving Ω3 not only significantly improved on GEC (P=0.001; D=0.70), but on BRI (P=0.004; D=0.49) and MI (P=0.04; D=0.41) as well compared to patients receiving placebo. Additionally, it was also found that patients who received Ω3 alone and patients who received Ω3 plus PEP showed significant improvements on GEC (D=0.49 and D=0.67, respectively). No effects were observed in patients who received PEP monotherapy.

The study authors noted, “Moderation by attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) comorbidity was nonsignificant although those with ADHD showed nominally greater gains.”

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In children with mood disorders, Ω3 supplementation was found to decrease impairment in EF. The study authors added, “Research examining casual associations of Ω3, EF, and mood symptoms is warranted.”


Vesco AT, Young AS, Arnold LE, Fristad MA. Omega-3 supplementation associated with improved parent-rated executive function in youth with mood disorders: secondary analyses of the omega 3 and therapy (OATS) trials. J Child Psychol Psychiatry. 2017 Oct 24. doi: 10.1111/jcpp.12830

This article originally appeared on MPR