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Child Development

Fish Oil For ADHD: What Are The Benefits?

December 6, 2022
Table of Contents

    Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is most often treated with a combination of behavioral therapy and stimulant drugs or similar medications. However, there are alternative treatment options used to treat ADHD, too, whether as an add-on or independent of other treatments. Fish oil is a supplement you've likely come across before, and there are a ton of health benefits linked to fish oil supplements rich in fatty acids. But does it really help with ADHD symptoms?

    In this article, we'll answer your questions about the use of fish oil for ADHD symptoms, including whether or not it works, how to dose fish oil for kids, and how long it takes for the effects of fish oil to set in. Then, we'll discuss other options parents can use to help their children with ADHD.

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    What Is Fish Oil?

    Fish oil refers to oil derived from oily fish. More specifically, fish oil contains the omega-3 fatty acids eicosapentaenoic acid (EHA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). Omega-3 fatty acids are known to promote a healthy brain alongside other benefits.

    Eating fish is one way to add omega-3 fatty acids to your diet, but many people who consume a standard Western diet do not get enough. The FDA recommends that kids eat 2 servings of fish per week for the beneficial effects. However, there are plant-based foods with omega-3 fatty acids, too. For example, walnuts, chia seeds, flaxseed oil, and flax seeds all have omega-3s.

    Many children are picky eaters and don't get enough omega-3 fatty acids from plant-based foods or animal sources, which is where taking supplements can come in handy. Taking a fish oil supplement is a great way to up your intake of essential fatty acids.

    Do Fish Oil Supplements Help ADHD Symptoms?

    There are no FDA-approved supplements for the treatment of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Instead, a combination of medication and therapy is most often recommended as the first line of treatment for those with ADHD.

    With increased awareness of the role nutrition plays in neural development, more and more parents are considering giving their children fish oil for ADHD symptoms. Although fish oil isn't a treatment for ADHD, research shows that fatty acid supplementation can be useful for those with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Omega 3 fatty acids support overall brain health, which is reason enough for many people to take fish oil or give it to their kids.

    Another interesting finding is that kids with ADHD are substantially more likely to have lower levels of Omega-3s. Various studies confirm that fish oil supplements have the potential to improve ADHD symptoms in children with the condition. Specifically, this is the case for kids with lower levels of Omega-3s than their peers without ADHD.

    It's more common for kids with ADHD to have lower blood levels of Omega 3 fatty acids, and the same is true for kids with other behavioral and learning difficulties. This doesn't mean that low omega-3s cause ADHD and other disorders directly, nor does it mean that ADHD will "go away" with supplementation. However, it is a relevant connection that supports the use of omega-3s in a ADHD child's diet.

    Read our list of the best omega 3 supplements for kids with ADHD.

    How Much Fish Oil Should I Give My Child?

    Every fish oil supplement is different. Whether you shop for fish oil in person or online, you'll notice that each has varying levels of docosahexaenoic acid and eicosapentaenoic acid, as well as variations in total amounts of omega-3 fatty acids.

    How much fish oil should you give a child for ADHD symptoms, then?

    Research indicates that around 120-1,300 mg of combined docosahexaenoic acid and eicosapentaenoic acid daily is a safe and beneficial dose of fish oil for kids. However, it's important to talk with your child's doctor to confirm the amount of fish oil your child should take. Every child is different, and in any case, it's crucial to discuss any supplements you consider giving to kids with a medical provider first.

    When you shop for fish oil supplements, choose a brand that makes a point to eliminate mercury.

    What If My Child Doesn't Like The Taste Of Fish Oil?

    Fish oil supplements for adults often come in liquid form and pill form. That said, many kids do not like the taste of fish oil or have trouble swallowing pills. You can find fish oil supplements designed specifically for children and toddlers. Many fish oil supplements designed for kids come in the form of gummies and flavored tablets, which covers up the flavor and encourages kids to take their supplements.

    How Fast Does Fish Oil Work For ADHD Symptoms?

    Fish oil supplements for ADHD tend to work within about three months. To accrue the benefits, make sure that your child takes fish oil for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder daily. Taking fish oil is generally seen as safe, which is part of why parents are drawn to it to help manage symptoms. Fish oil supplements have very few side effects, but some side effects can occur in kids who take fish oil. Look out for symptoms of nausea, heartburn, and "fish oil burps."

    Other Supplements For ADHD

    Various supplements are known to affect ADHD symptoms in kids. What other supplements might children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder benefit from? Here are some options to consider.


    Kids with ADHD are at a higher risk of iron deficiencies/low Ferritin, a blood protein that stores iron. When children with ADHD have low Ferritin levels, taking iron supplements or getting IV-administered iron is not only crucial for well-being but can also help lessen ADHD symptoms.

    Vitamin D

    Vitamin D deficiencies are common among the general population, but children with ADHD are particularly prone to low levels of vitamin D. Similar to iron, if your child has low Vitamin D, it is important to treat the deficiency.

    Some fish oil supplements contain added vitamin D. If you want your child to take both vitamin D and fish oil for ADHD (or for any other reason), consider a child-friendly fish oil supplement with both.

    Note: Joon is a video game that makes everyday tasks fun for kids ages 6-12. Backed by child psychologists, therapists, and teachers, Joon is built with the ADHD brain in mind. Click here to download the app and try Joon for free. 


    Like iron and vitamin D, kids with ADHD are prone to lower levels of Zinc. When levels of Zinc are too low, it can lead to the worsening of ADHD symptoms. If your child has low zinc levels, talk with their doctor about supplementation.


    Magnesium is imperative for the growth of bone mass and healthy bone density. Evidence shows that magnesium can support attention, sleep, and anxiety relief. Some research also indicates that magnesium can reduce hyperactivity, making it a popular choice for parents of kids with ADHD.

    Ginkgo Biloba

    Although research is limited, some studies suggest that taking Ginkgo Biloba can reduce ADHD symptoms in children. 

    Often, if a child has a nutrient deficiency, your insurance will help you cover the cost of supplements. For example, if a child has low vitamin D, their doctor might be able to prescribe vitamin D pills. That way, you will not have to cover the full over-the-counter cost. If your child takes ADHD medications, make sure to check with their doctor before they start using any supplements or alternative treatments. Some supplements lead to negative interactions when taken alongside ADHD medications.

    How Joon Can Help Your Child With ADHD

    Kids with ADHD face a range of challenges, such as difficulty with motivation, executive functioning, and completing important tasks or activities. Motivate your child to focus and stay on top of their daily routines with Joon. 

    In the app, parents create a list of tasks for children to complete in real life. For example, putting the dishes away or brushing their teeth. When the child completes these tasks (also called quests), they get rewards that allow them to care for a virtual pet.

    90% of kids who use Joon complete all of the quests their parents assign. Many parents say Joon has improved their parent-child relationship, and the app is rated an average of 4.7 out of 5 stars in the app store.

    Parents must create an account first, but your child can connect to Joon from various sources, such as an iPad, Android, Samsung Tablet, or Amazon Kindle.

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    Fatty acids are essential for brain development and general health, but many people don't get enough from dietary intake alone. There are various beneficial effects of taking fish oil for people with and without attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

    Most often, combined behavioral therapy and medication are used for ADHD. However, research suggests that omega-3s can help with ADHD symptoms in kids - specifically, those with low blood levels of omega-3 fatty acids. Allow for three months of daily fish oil supplementation to start seeing the effects of fish oil supplements for ADHD symptoms.

    Before your child starts taking fish oil, make sure to tell their doctor. Most people tolerate fish oil well, but some have minor side effects like nausea. When you shop, pick a brand of fish oil supplements that eliminate mercury from their products for your child.

    In addition to fish oil supplements rich in omega-3 fatty acids, other supplements and tools can have a positive impact on children with ADHD.


    Sarah Schulze MSN, APRN, CPNP

    Sarah is a Pediatric Nurse Practitioner with a specialty certification in pediatric mental health. She works at a clinic in Champaign Illinois, providing care to children and adolescents with mental health disorders. She obtained her bachelor's in nursing from Indiana State University in 2011 and completed her master's in nursing from University of Illinois at Chicago in 2014. She is passionate about helping children create a solid foundation on which they can grow into healthy adults.


    Sarah Schulze MSN, APRN, CPNP

    Sarah is a Pediatric Nurse Practitioner with a specialty certification in pediatric mental health. She works at a clinic in Champaign Illinois, providing care to children and adolescents with mental health disorders. She obtained her bachelor's in nursing from Indiana State University in 2011 and completed her master's in nursing from University of Illinois at Chicago in 2014. She is passionate about helping children create a solid foundation on which they can grow into healthy adults.