If you are a parent of a child with ADHD, you have probably heard a lot about the role that supplements can play in treating this condition. Below is information on several supplements that researchers have studied for their role in alleviating symptoms and helping with long-term ADHD management.
Research has shown that, compared to their peers, children with ADHD have lower levels of ferritin (iron) in their blood and that these low iron levels may cause more severe ADHD symptoms. One study, published in the journal Pediatric Neurology, looked at children with ADHD and low ferritin levels (below 30 ng/mL). The study found that children who received iron supplementation showed improvement in ADHD symptoms compared to the group that received a placebo.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Omega-3 fatty acids have received a lot of attention for a variety of health conditions, including ADHD. One review in the Journal of Lipids analyzed 16 studies that had assessed Omega-3 fatty acid supplementation in children and young people with ADHD. Researchers conducting the review noted that 13 of those studies discovered a link between Omega-3 fatty acid supplementation and improvement in a variety of symptoms. Benefits ranged from enhanced learning and cognition to improvements in memory, attention span and impulse control. Some studies also found that the Omega-3 fatty acid supplementation helped when used in conjunction with medications like methylphenidate.
Studies have shown that some children diagnosed with ADHD also have lower zinc levels than their non-ADHD peers. Zinc has been used in conjunction with traditional pharmacological treatments like methylphenidate. Scientists believe that this supplementation is of great benefit for children with both ADHD and low zinc levels. A randomized trial published in Progress in Neuropsychiatry and Biological Psychiatry studied the effects of zinc supplementation on children with ADHD. The trial found that children receiving the zinc showed improvements in social skills, impulse control and hyperactivity compared to children receiving the placebo.
Like zinc and iron deficiency, researchers have also noted low magnesium levels in children with ADHD. A study from Magnesium Research that looked at magnesium supplementation for ADHD children with low magnesium levels found that supplementation helped to significantly reduce hyperactive behavior. Another study found cognitive improvements in children who received magnesium supplements.
Check with your doctor about supplements: It is important that parents understand that no one supplement will provide a “silver bullet” for ADHD management. Experts like Dr. Sandy Newmark, writing in ADDitude magazine, suggest that it is best for you to meet with your child’s doctor to discuss possible supplementation before beginning any new treatments. But a working knowledge of which supplements appear to help with ADHD can aid parents as they begin discussions about possible additions to their child’s treatment plan.