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Nutrition for ADD and ADHD

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Research indicates that lack of nutrition may play a role in aggravating symptoms of hyperactivity. That said, it seems that ADD and ADHD is not simply a disease of malnutrition as studies show that the diets of non-hyperactive children do not differ significantly from those with the disorder. It seems that the effect of nutrition – whether eating typical American fare, vegan diet programs, or other types of average diet – may also be dependent on the individual’s genes, exposure to stress, allergies, use of medications, etc., which may mean that the nutritional status of each individual patient may need to be examined on a case-by-case basis. 

Dietary Nutrition and Hyperactivity

Thiamine (Vitamin B1) and Pyridoxine (Vitamin B6) - In one double blind clinical trial (Journal of Learning Disabilities, 1982), a group of 100 patients, aged 4—25 years, with hyperkinesis, were given daily supplements of 100 mg of thiamine. Following a short trial, children received either thiamine or a placebo. About 1 in 4 of the children showed a dramatic favorable response to the thiamin supplement, and about half of these relapsed when put on a placebo. A significant number of children in this study also responded well to vitamin B6 supplements. 

Mineral Deficiency and Hyperactivity

Blood and hair tests have revealed mineral deficiencies in hyperactive children. The most consistent problems have been low magnesium and low zinc. Iron deficiencies have also been linked to cases of ADD and ADHD. 

Magnesium Deficiency and ADD/ADHD

In a 1998 study published in the Annales Academiae Medicae Stetinensis journal, of 116 ADHD children, (94 boys and 22 girls aged 9-12 years), researchers found significant deficiencies of magnesium, copper, zinc, calcium, and iron. Of 75 children with magnesium deficiency, 50 were placed on a magnesium supplement for 6 months, while the remaining 25 continued with conventional therapy, without additional magnesium. Results showed a decrease in hyperactivity in the group of children treated with magnesium. Among the children given standard treatment without magnesium supplements, hyperactivity intensified. 

In a 1997 6-month study of 50 hyperactive children with ADHD syndrome who were given magnesium (200mg/day) to correct their magnesium deficiency, there was a significant decrease of hyperactivity, compared to the control group which had not been treated with magnesium supplements. That clinical trial was published in the Magnesium Research journal.

Iron Deficiency and ADD/ADHD

Research into hyperactivity and diet nutrition has shown that children with ‘restless legs syndrome’ may be linked to a deficiency of iron. In addition, iron helps to regulate dopamine function in the brain. 

For example, in a 1997 study published in the Neuropsychobiology journal, 14 non-anemic children (aged 7-11 years) with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) were tested for heme and nonheme iron metabolism and the effect of short-term iron administration on behavior. The extent of ADHD symptoms among the children was assessed on the Connors Rating Scale. In the study, each patient was given an iron supplement, 5 mg/kg/day for 30 days. Results showed a significant increase in iron levels in the blood and a significant improvement in ADHD symptoms.