Dietary docosahexaenoic acid supplementation in children with autism

Robert G. Voigt, Michael W. Mellon, Slavica K. Katusic, Amy L. Weaver, Dietrich Matern, Bryan Mellon, Craig L. Jensen, William J. Barbaresi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

40 Scopus citations


OBJECTIVE:: The aim of the study was to determine whether docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) supplementation improves the behavior of children with autism. METHODS:: A group of 3- to 10-year-old children with autism were randomized in a double-blind fashion to receive a supplement containing 200 mg of DHA or a placebo for 6 months. The parents and the investigator completed the Clinical Global Impressions-Improvement scale to rate changes in core symptoms of autism after 3 and 6 months. The parents completed the Child Development Inventory and the Aberrant Behavior Checklist, and both parents and teachers completed the Behavior Assessment Scale for Children (BASC) at enrollment and after 6 months. RESULTS:: A total of 48 children (40 [83%] boys, mean age [standard deviation] 6.1 [2.0] years) were enrolled; 24 received DHA and 24 placebo. Despite a median 431% increase in total plasma DHA levels after 6 months, the DHA group was not rated as improved in core symptoms of autism compared to the placebo group on the CGI-I. Based on the analysis of covariance models adjusted for the baseline rating scores, parents (but not teachers) provided a higher average rating of social skills on the BASC for the children in the placebo group compared to the DHA group (P=0.04), and teachers (but not parents) provided a higher average rating of functional communication on the BASC for the children in the DHA group compared to the placebo group (P=0.02). CONCLUSIONS:: Dietary DHA supplementation of 200 mg/day for 6 months does not improve the core symptoms of autism. Our results may have been limited by inadequate sample size.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)715-722
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of pediatric gastroenterology and nutrition
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2014


  • Autism
  • Complementary and alternative therapy
  • Dietary supplements
  • Docosahexaenoic acid
  • Fish oil
  • Pervasive developmental disorders
  • V-3 fatty acids

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Gastroenterology


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