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Omega 3 Fatty Acid Supplements and Autism Ranking: Insufficient/Mixed evidence

Future Research

Summary of Existing Research

There is a very small amount of high quality research evidence (13 group studies) and a small amount of low quality research (three single-case design studies with three or more participants) into the use of omega-3 fatty acids as an intervention for people on the autism spectrum.

Some of those studies have reported benefits (such as increased social communication and interaction and decreased hyperactivity). Some of those studies have reported no benefits of any kind.

There is therefore insufficient evidence to determine if omega-3 fatty acids provide any benefits to anyone on the autism spectrum. 

Recommendations for Future Research

There is a need for further research into the use of omega-3 fatty acid supplements for people on the autism spectrum.  Specifically there is a need for studies which

  • Use robust methodology, for example, large-scale, placebo-controlled, randomised, double-blind trials 
  • Provide data on the fatty acid levels of the participants at the beginning or end of the intervention.
  • Use standardised outcome measures at the start and at the end of the trials and give equal prominence to all of those measures in the reporting of the trials.
  • Use appropriate statistical tests and techniques to analyse the data.
  • Identify which individuals, if any, are most likely to benefit from which formulations and dosages.
  • Determine if omega-3 supplements can be used as one of the elements within comprehensive, multi-component, treatment models, for example, alongside special diets.
  • Compare omega-3 supplements with other interventions which are designed to achieve similar results, such as special diets.
  • Identify if omega-3 supplements have any beneficial or harmful effects in the medium to long term. 
  • Involve people on the autism spectrum in the design, development and evaluation of those studies. 
Updated
14 Dec 2018
Last Review
01 Dec 2018
Next Review
01 Dec 2021