Omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin E for Autistic Spectrum Disorders (a pilot randomised controlled trial) (2017)

DSPI PI: Paul Montgomery

Funded by: John Fell OUP Fund


The Centre for Evidence-Based Intervention conducted world-leading research into effectiveness of psycho-social interventions, including the effects of nutrition on behavior, learning and mood. The Centre has recently completed two large trials examining the effects of dietary supplementation of omega-3 fatty acids on reading and behaviour in schoolchildren.

Autistic Spectrum Disorders (ASDs) are behaviourally-defined conditions characterised by deficits in social, behavioural and cognitive functions, and are estimated to cost £32bn annually. None of the existing therapies, however, are comprehensive to 'cure' ASDs, highlighting the need for further research into effective interventions. Limited evidence suggests that supplementation with omega-3s may improve behaviour and wellbeing of ASD children and their parents. However, existing trials on this issue are poorly conducted and do not test omega-3s in combination with vitamin E - important to boost the effects of omega-3s. A large, high-quality trial is therefore needed to investigate the effects of omega-3s in combination with vitamin E as a potential intervention for ASD Children. Given the specific nature of the study population, which challenges the aspects of evaluation, it is important to first conduct a pilot trial. The findings from this pilot will inform the planning for the full-scale trial, and therefore enhance the application to external funders.

This pilot trial will include 20 children aged 3 to 12 years from Oxford. Children will be assessed at baseline, after which they will be randomly allocated to receive either omega-3s and vitamin E or a placebo and assessed again 16 weeks later.