24 March 2019
There has been a significant rise in the number of kids getting diagnosed with ADHD in recent years. Photo: Reuters
There has been a significant rise in the number of kids getting diagnosed with ADHD in recent years. Photo: Reuters

Alternative treatments for ADHD

According to a study in 2000, the incidence rate of attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in children is about 3 percent to 7 percent.

At present, the exact cause of ADHD is still unknown. It is speculated that possible causes include inherited genetics, environmental factors, and brain diseases, which lead to impairments in some of the brain’s neurotransmitter systems.

Meanwhile, one of the environmental factors would be smoking or drinking during pregnancy.

The current standard method of treating ADHD is mainly medication, including both stimulant and non-stimulant medicines, with behavioral therapies.

After medication, about 70 percent to 80 percent of the children’s symptoms showed improvement.

However, not all patients or their parents can accept the side effects, such as insomnia, loss of appetite, sudden weight loss, anxiety or restlessness, as well as the long-term medication during school.

Polyunsaturated fatty acid is an important element in the development of children’s brains.

In general, people can absorb an adequate amount from a normal diet. In the 1980s, there were already studies and research on the relation between polyunsaturated fatty acids and hyperactivity.

The researchers have found that ADHD patients had a significantly lower amount of polyunsaturated fatty acids than normal people.

Fatty acids have now been used to aid in the treatment of hyperactivity. Early studies have found that fatty acid supplementation can improve some of the symptoms, but the results of subsequent studies were inconsistent, limiting its clinical application.

Recently, it was found that adding phosphatidylserine (PS), which helps improve one’s memory, to unsaturated fatty acid omega 3 can enhance its effects and really help improve the patients’ conditions.

Since 2013, studies have continuously found that enhanced versions of omega 3 fatty acids have positive effects in ADHD children with no obvious side effects.

Currently, such food supplements are classified by the US Food and Drug Administration as Prescription Medical Food.

Doctors will judge whether the medical food is suitable for the patient depending on parents’ acceptance and the patients’ responses towards the standard medication, including the side effects and effectiveness of the drug. Medical food supplementation is still classified as a second-line treatment.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on July 13

Translation by John Chui

[Chinese version 中文版]

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FHKAM (Paediatrics)

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