Effect of Omega-3 and -6 Supplementation on Language in Preterm Toddlers Exhibiting Autism Spectrum Disorder Symptoms
Delayed language development may be an early indicator of autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Early intervention is critical for children with ASD, and the present study presents pilot data on a clinical trial of omega-3 and -6 fatty acid supplementation and language development, a secondary trial outcome, in children at risk for ASD. We randomized 31 children to receive an omega-3 and -6 supplement or a placebo for 3 months, and measured their language abilities at baseline and after supplementation. Gesture use, but not word production, increased for children in the treatment group more than children in the placebo group. These results suggest possible effectiveness of omega-3 and -6 supplementation for language development in children at risk for ASD.
KeywordsChildren born preterm Autism spectrum disorder Language development MacArthur Bates communicative development inventory Omega-3 fatty acids Omega-6 fatty acids
We would like to thank the families who participated in the study and Yvette Bean, Kendra Heck, Chenali Jayadeva, Julia Less, and Kamma Smith of Nationwide Children’s Hospital for data collection and administrative support.
This study was funded by The Marci and Bill Ingram Fund for Autism Spectrum Disorders Research (no grant number), Cures Within Reach (no grant number), the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences/NIH (UL1TR001070), and internal support from the Research Institute at Nationwide Children’s Hospital.
The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences or the National Institutes of Health. Nordic Naturals provided the investigational product, and Welsh, Holme, & Clark Co., Inc. provided canola oil at no cost. Neither the study sponsors nor product providers had a role in the study design.
KWS ran the statistical analyses, interpreted the results, and drafted and revised the manuscript; KMB participated in study design, oversaw data collection, participated in analyses, and revised the manuscript; JR participated in study conception and design, oversaw statistical analyses, and revised the manuscript; SAK, BG, MAK, LKR, CB, and DLC conceived of and designed the study, had overall oversight of the project, participated in statistical analyses and interpretation of data, and revised the manuscript.
Compliance with Ethical Standards
Conflict of interest
All authors declare that they have no conflicts of interest.
All procedures performed in this study were in accordance with institutional ethical standards and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments.
Written informed consent (parental permission for the children) was obtained from all individual participants included in this study.
- Amminger, G. P., Berger, G. E., Schafer, M. R., Klier, C., Friedrich, M. H., & Feucht, M. (2007). Omega-3 fatty acids supplementation in children with autism: A double-blind randomized, placebo-controlled pilot study. Biological Psychiatry, 61, 551–553. doi:10.1016/j.biopsych.2006.05.007.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
- Bourre, J. M., et al. (1989). The effects of dietary alpha-linolenic acid on the composition of nerve membranes, enzymatic activity, amplitude of electrophysiological parameters, resistance to poisons and performance of learning tasks in rats. Journal of Nutrition, 119, 1880–1892.PubMedGoogle Scholar
- Bruckner, C., Yoder, P., Stone, W., & Saylor, M. (2007). Construct validity of the MCDI-I receptive vocabulary scale can be improved: Differential item functioning between toddlers with autism spectrum disorders and typically-developing infants. Journal of Speech Language and Hearing Research, 50, 1631–1638.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Cattani, A., Bonifacio, S., Fertz, M., Iverson, J. M., Zocconi, E., & Caselli, M. C. (2010). Communicative and linguistic development in preterm children: a longitudinal study from 12 to 24 months. International Journal of Language & Communication Disorders, 45, 162–173. doi:10.3109/13682820902818870.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Frank, M. C., Braginsky, M., Yurovsky, D., Marchman, V.A. (2016). Wordbank: An open repository for developmental vocabulary data. Journal of Child Language, 1–18. doi:10.1017/S0305000916000209.
- Gibson, R. A., Neumann, M. A., Lien, E. L., Boyd, K. A., & Tu, W. C. (2013). Docosahexaenoic acid synthesis from alpha-linolenic acid is inhibited by diets high in polyunsaturated fatty acids. Prostaglandins Leukotrienes and Essential Fatty Acids, 88, 139–146. doi:10.1016/j.plefa.2012.04.003.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Johnson, M., Fransson, G., Ostlund, S., Areskoug, B., & Gillberg, C. (2016). Omega 3/6 fatty acids for reading in children: A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial in 9-year-old mainstream schoolchildren in Sweden. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry and Allied Disciplines. doi:10.1111/jcpp.12614.Google Scholar
- Jucaite, A., Fernell, E., Halldin, C., Forssberg, H., & Farde, L. (2005). Reduced midbrain dopamine transporter binding in male adolescents with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder: Association between striatal dopamine markers and motor hyperactivity. Biological Psychiatry, 57, 229–238. doi:10.1016/j.biopsych.2004.11.009.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
- Jumpsen, J., Lien, E. L., Goh, Y. K., & Clandinin, M. T. (1997b). Small changes of dietary (n-6) and (n-3)/fatty acid content ratio alter phosphatidylethanolamine and phosphatidylcholine fatty acid composition during development of neuronal and glial cells in rats. Journal of Nutrition, 127, 724–731.PubMedGoogle Scholar
- Keim, S. A., et al. (under review). Omega-3 and -6 fatty acid supplementation may benefit autism symptoms based on parent report in preterm toddlers. The Journal of Nutrition.Google Scholar
- McNamara, R. K., Jandacek, R., Rider, T., Tso, P., Dwivedi, Y., & Pandey, G. N. (2010). Selective deficits in erythrocyte docosahexaenoic acid composition in adult patients with bipolar disorder and major depressive disorder. Journal of Affective Disorders, 126, 303–311. doi:10.1016/j.jad.2010.03.015.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
- Meldrum, S. J., D’Vaz, N., Simmer, K., Dunstan, J. A., Hird, K., & Prescott, S. L. (2012). Effects of high-dose fish oil supplementation during early infancy on neurodevelopment and language: A randomised controlled trial. The British Journal of Nutrition, 108, 1443–1454. doi:10.1017/S0007114511006878.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
- Parletta, N., Niyonsenga, T., Duff, J. (2016). Omega-3 and omega-6 polyunsaturated fatty acid levels and correlations with symptoms in children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, autistic spectrum disorder and typically developing controls. PLoS ONE. doi:10.4226/78/572fdf0edfb74.PubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
- Simmer, K., Schulzke, S., Patole, S. K. (2008). Longchain polyunsaturated fatty acid supplementation in preterm infants (Review). The Cochrane Library, 1, 1–57.Google Scholar