A double-blind, placebo-controlled trial of omega-3 fatty acids in Tourette's disorder

Vilma Gabbay, James S. Babb, Rachel G. Klein, Aviva M. Panzer, Yisrael Katz, Carmen M. Alonso, Eva Petkova, Jing Wang, Barbara J. Coffey

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

40 Scopus citations


OBJECTIVE: Clinical observations have suggested therapeutic effects for omega-3 fatty acids (O3FA) in Tourette's disorder (TD), but no randomized, controlled trials have been reported. In a placebo-controlled trial, we examined the efficacy of O3FA in children and adolescents with TD. METHODS: Thirty-three children and adolescents (ages 6-18) with TD were randomly assigned, double-blind, to O3FA or placebo for 20 weeks. O3FA consisted of combined eicosapentaenoic acid and docosahexaenoic acid. Placebo was olive oil. Groups were compared by using (1) intent-to-treat design, with the last-observation- carried-forward controlling for baseline measures and attention-deficit/ hyperactivity disorder via (a) logistic regression, comparing percentage of responders on the primary Yale Global Tic Severity Scale (YGTSS)-Tic and secondary (YGTSS-Global and YGTSS-Impairment) outcome measures and (b) analysis of covariance; and (2) longitudinal mixed-effects models. RESULTS: At end point, subjects treated with O3FA did not have significantly higher response rates or lower mean scores on the YGTSS-Tic (53% vs 38%; 15.6 ± 1.6 vs 17.1 ± 1.6, P > .1). However, significantly more subjects on O3FA were considered responders on the YGTSS-Global measure (53% vs 31%, P = .05) and YGTSS-Impairment measure (59% vs 25%, P < .05), and mean YGTSS-Global scores were significantly lower in the O3FA-treated group than in the placebo group (31.7 ± 2.9 vs 40.9 ± 3.0, P = .04). Obsessive-compulsive, anxiety, and depressive symptoms were not significantly affected by O3FA. Longitudinal analysis did not yield group differences on any of the measures. CONCLUSIONS: O3FA did not reduce tic scores, but it may be beneficial in reduction of tic-related impairment for some children and adolescents with TD. Limitations include the small sample and the possible therapeutic effects of olive oil.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)e1493-e1500
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2012
Externally publishedYes


  • Double-blind
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder
  • Omega-3 fatty acids
  • Placebo-controlled
  • Tourette's disorder

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health


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