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Tourette Syndrome patients with tics can benefit from Omega-3 fatty acids

Tourette Syndrome has a whole bag of things to manage. Omega-3 fatty acids might not be able to help with all of them, but helping tic-related impairments is a good start.

A new placebo, double-blind randomized study for kids with Tourette used Omega-3 fatty acids to test for symptom improvement. The study was small, but the results were good.

Dr. Vilma Gabbay, MD, MS, from the NYU Child Study Center at the NYU School of Medicine, led a team to find out if there are any benefits from Omega-3 fatty acids for those with Tourette.

Tourette can have varying levels of severity. Minor cases display involuntary movements or tics, such as eye blinking, head or shoulder jerking. The more major cases include bigger displays of motor tics and involuntary vocalizations like shouting and barking.

It is important to note that though the study was double blind, meaning even the researchers handling the oil didn’t know which was Omega-3 fatty acids or the placebo — olive oil. There are certain essential fatty acids in olive oil that could have skewed the results.

For the study, 33 children ages 6 to 18 diagnosed with Tourette were randomly assigned to either Omega-3 fatty acids or olive oil placebo for 20 weeks. The children were assessed at the beginning of the study that also controlled for attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

The results showed that, based on the Yale Global Tic Severity Scale for impairment, the Omega-3 group scored 59 percent vs. 25 percent for the placebo group. Depression, anxiety and obsessive-compulsive (OCD) symptoms were not significantly changed by the Omega-3 fatty acids.

The authors of the study conclude that even thought the Omega-3 didn’t lower the tic scores it did appear to help with tic-related impairment. This study was published in the journal Pediatrics, May 2012.  No financial information was given and no conflicts of interest were found.

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5 Comments

  1. Better late than never: In case anyone still stumbles acros this and wonders about the actual dose used in the 2012 Gabbay study:
    “20 wk.: 334–4000 mg EPA (titrated), 167–2000 mg DHA (titrated)”
    So that’s 2g + 4g = 6 grams of combined Omega3. Now, given that regular fishoil usually comes at 30 % Omega content you’d need around 20 grams of fishoil to get that 6 grams. While this may like a lot, it is actually very doable, even for a child. The trick is to use flavored oil in bottled form and swallow it from a glass in one gulp. Alternatively eat fatty fish every day! (Great on sandwiches for example) For example: Mackerel (3.5 ounces contain around 18 grams of fish oil) or herring! Note that in herring the fat content varies more depending on season, but it’s about 12 grams fish oil per 3.5 ounces.

  2. Is there any information how much in the Omega-3 included EPA and DHA?

    • Elizabeth, all indications are that it would be a normal daily dose, such as you can find from Omega-3 fish oil vitamin pills that are sold in almost any store. Hope this helps!

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