Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD, is a serious mental disorder that involves loss of function at home and at work or school. Individuals with ADHD have a basic difficulty concentrating, but the disorder as a whole is more complex. ADHD results in a breakdown of the executive functioning system. Executive functioning refers to attention, working memory, processing speed and some aspects of abstract thinking and strategy formation. Given the severity of the disorder, scientists have looked at how various substances such as lecithin are implicated in treatment and etiology.
What is Lecithin?
Lecithin is a actually the term for a group of compounds that includes lipids, triglycerides and small amounts of carbohydrates. This group contains a variety of fatty acids that provide structure and protection, especially for cell membranes. Lecithin can be found in soybeans, grape seeds and sunflowers. In terms of animal sources, fish and eggs supply the compound. Lecithin has many claims to health, including weight loss and cardiovascular improvement.
Fatty Acid Deficiency in ADHD
Fatty acids, which are included under the umbrella term lecithin, are related to ADHD in that some children with the disorder have shown deficiencies. In 2007, researchers in Australia who had ADHD and symptoms of fatty acid deficits, such as increased thirst and dry skin, were given supplements that included omega-3 and omega-6 polyunsaturated fatty acids. The results, which were published in the journal "Prostaglandins, Leukotrienes, and Essential Fatty Acids," did not show an improvement in ADHD symptoms after treatment. The researchers concluded that fatty acid deficiency is not a reliable factor in ADHD.
Fatty Acids in the Treatment of ADHD
In 2009, researchers in France looked at the use of fatty acids as a way to treat ADHD. They reviewed a variety of studies examining the possibility of using fatty acid supplements to help children with ADHD. The study results were published in the journal of "Neuropharmacology" and showed that, although children who took the supplements showed increased overall levels of essential fatty acids in their blood, there was no change in their ADHD symptoms.
Putting It All Together
While there is clear clinical research suggesting a link between fatty acid and lipid deficiency and ADHD, scientists have not been able to confirm that compounds such as lecithin treat the disorder. As of 2011, the FDA has not approved lecithin fatty acid compounds for the treatment of ADHD. Individuals wanting to add fatty acid supplements to their diet should consult a physician prior to making nutritional changes.
- "Prostaglandins, Leukotrienes, and Essential Fatty Acids"; Physical Fatty Acid Deficiency Signs in Children with ADHD Symptoms; N. Sinn; 2007
- "Neuropharmacology"; The Role of Fatty Acids in the Treatment of ADHD; S. Chalon; 2009
- "The Diagnositic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition"; The American Psychiatric Association; 1994