ADHD and Vitamins

Various nutritional approaches may help ADHD. Nutrition remains controversial because scientific studies, by their very nature, look at a single constituent. The paradigm in medicine is to try to find a “cure”, one thing that fixes the symptom. There is an inherent flaw in this way of thinking because it assumes that any health problem has one cause. If the problem, as some research suggests, is due to a lack of serotonin, then many factors can come into play. You need protein and the amino acid tryptophan to make serotonin. You also need folic acid, vitamin B6, vitamin C and other nutrients to make serotonin. Exercise helps us to produce serotonin. Essential fatty acids are necessary for the integrity of the nerve cell membranes. Many factors are involved. If someone with ADHD is not producing enough serotonin due to a lack of tryptophan, giving them folic acid in a study may not produce results. If the person is folic acid deficient, then giving B6 may not help and so on.
Serotonin is only one neurotransmitter—what if GABA is involved? Obviously, other nutrients will come into play. Sugar and the chemical reactions of the Krebs Cycle begin to matter. What if a heavy metal or a chemical toxin is interfering with those reactions?
When you think of ADHD that way, the inherent idiocy of debating whether or not B6 (or any other nutrient) should be used to treat ADHD becomes obvious. B6 fixes a B6 deficiency, not ADHD.
With that in mind, there are some studies that show the benefit of nutrient supplementation for patients with ADHD. Omega-3 fatty acids are pretty well researched. So much so, that it is safe to say that you should supplement ADHD patients with them (along with having them avoid trans fats). One study appearing in Prostaglandins, Leukotrienes and Essential Fatty Acids (2005; Nov 25 e-pub ahead of print) found that supplementing with flax oil and vitamin C improved levels of RBC membrane fatty acids and a reduction in total hyperactivity scores. Another small pilot study published in Nutrition Journal (2007; 6(1): 16) found that a high daily dose of EPA/DHA was found to significantly improve behavior over eight weeks. Other research appearing in the journal, Lipids (December 2004;39(12):1215-1222).
Other studies have shown different nutrients to be of value. One study found that appeared in the Journal of Child and Adolescent Psychopharmacology (2007; 17(6): 791-802) found that acetyly-L-carnitine may be of value for children with the “inattentive” type of ADHD. Another small study appearing in Prostaglandins, Leukotreines and Essential Fatty Acids (2002;67(1):33-38) found that supplementation with L-carnitine helped improve behavior in ADHD patients.
Magnesium and B6 supplementation helped improve symptoms in a study involving 40 ADHD patients that was published in Magnesium Research (2006; 19(1): 46-52). Other research, published in Magnesium Research (1997;10(2):143-148) found a magnesium deficiency in 95% of the subjects with documented ADHD.
Dietary changes may also be of benefit to children with ADHD. A number of studies have shown the benefits of refined sugar and additive free diets to a number of ADHD patients.