Autism is a brain development disorder characterised by socially detached behaviour, impairment of language and restricted and repetitive behaviour. Its occurrence has surged in recent years and one possible explanation for the neurodevelopmental problems seen in autistic individuals is early exposure to toxins or a virus which over-stimulates an immune response. It is highly likely that this autoimmune response interferes with the development of myelin – the protective fatty acid layer which protects our nerves through the production of auto-antibodies directly targeted to myelin. If myelin in the brain doesn't develop properly, nerve fibres aren’t able to function properly.
How fatty acids help
There is increasing evidence that fatty acid deficiencies or imbalances may contribute to childhood neurodevelopmental disorders, including autism, with the outcome of research studies indicating that omega-3 supplements are a viable treatment to help manage symptoms (Amminger et al, 2007). Omega-3 fatty acids are now a commonly used complementary and alternative medical (CAM) treatment for autism and in a 2006 survey around 28 % of families reported using omega-3 (Green et al, 2006).
A 2007 survey of 479 parents of children with autism found that 46% of children had used stimulant medications such as Ritalin by adolescence, suggesting that almost half of children with autism have hyperactivity that is troubling enough to require a trial of stimulant medication (Goin-Kochel et al, 2007).
The way to prevent or treat a fatty acid deficiency is to take a fatty acid supplement that is rich in EPA and GLA. Although DHA (the other omega-3 fatty acid found in generic fish oil) plays an important structural role in the brain, taking pure EPA without DHA will not impact on DHA levels, as DHA is made endogenously (within the body) directly from EPA. Unlike EPA, DHA stores remain relatively stable but when DHA stores need topping up, the body simply makes it from EPA. In addition clinical research shows that when treating neurodevelopmental disorders, the higher the ratio of EPA to DHA in a supplement, the more effective the supplement becomes (Bloch & Qawasmi 2011). Vegepa E-EPA 70 has the highest ratio possible - it contains ultra-pure EPA and absolutely no DHA. Vegepa E-EPA 70 also contains virgin evening primrose oil, which is rich in GLA, another important fatty acid. For younger children, or for those who struggle to swallow capsules, our chewable version of Vegepa E-EPA 70 may be more suitable. Sweetened with natural xylitol and free from aspartame, dairy, gluten, lactose, salicylates and yeast, Vegepa E-EPA 70 Orange Chewables is the ideal supplement for young children with autism who may have dietary restrictions.
Vegepa E-EPA 70
Children aged four to twelve years should take 1 capsule daily and children aged over twelve years should take 2-4 capsules daily.
Vegepa E-EPA 70 Orange Chewables
Children aged three to eight years should take 2-4 capsules daily. Children aged eight years and over should take 4-6 capsules daily.
Take both products with food for optimum absorption. For young children, Vegepa E-EPA 70 Orange Chewables may be pierced and mixed with yoghurt or similar.
Amminger GP, Berger GE, Schäfer MR, Klier C, Friedrich MH & Feucht M. (2007) Omega-3 fatty acids supplementation in children with autism: a double-blind randomized, placebo-controlled pilot study. Biological Psychiatry Biologial Psychiatry. 2007 61:551-3.
Bell JG, MacKinlay EE, Dick JR, MacDonald DJ, Boyle RM & Glen AC (2004) Essential fatty acids and phospholipase A2 in autistic spectrum disorders. Prostaglandins Leukotrienes and Essential Fatty Acids 71:201–204.
Goin-Kochel RP, Myers B J & Mackintosh VH. (2007) Parental reports on the use of treatments and therapies for children with autism spectrum disorders. Research in Autism Spectrum Disorders. 1:195–209.
Green, VA, Pituch, KA, Itchon, J, Choi, A, O’Reilly, M & Sigafoos J. (2006) Internet survey of treatments used by parents of children with autism. Research in Developmental Disabilities 27:70–84.