A new study brings very hopeful and promising news to parents who have kids with ADHD. Researchers have found that a simple supplement of essential vitamins and minerals — not very different at all from a multivitamin — helps a significant number of children with a range of ADHD symptoms. It could be a very safe and relatively side-effect-free option for some six million kids in the United States who live with attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder.
The study, which was published in the latest volume of Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (JAACAP), was a triple-blind, randomized look at how simple vitamins and minerals affected the behavior and symptoms of 135 children aged 6-12 and diagnosed with ADHD. One group took a “broad-spectrum micronutrient supplementation with all known vitamins and essential minerals” while another group took a placebo. The study lasted eight weeks, and none of the children were on ADHD medication at the time.
The results? Three times as many kids taking the micronutrients reported improvements in their ADHD symptoms (54 percent versus 18 percent) and over half the kids taking the supplement showed significant improvements, according to their parents.
Specifically, the parents of the kids taking the supplements reported “much or very much” improved behavior when it came to anxiety, aggression, irritable mood, emotional regulation, sleep, and anger.
"Supplementing with all known vitamins and essential minerals, at doses between Recommended Daily Allowance and Upper Tolerable Limit, may improve mood and concentration in children with ADHD and emotional dysregulation," lead author Jeanette Johnstone, PhD, Assistant Professor at the National University of Natural Medicine told Science Daily.
The results replicated a very similar study conducted in New Zealand, which is very promising.
“These findings may offer guidance to doctors and families seeking integrative treatments for their children with ADHD and related emotional dysregulation," Dr. Johnstone noted.
The study also found that kids taking the supplements grew taller than the kids taking the placebo — after adjusting for baseline height, they found that the kids on vitamins grew 6 mm taller than the other children.
"The growth finding, also a replication from the previous child micronutrient study, is particularly encouraging, as height suppression is a concern with first-line ADHD medication," Dr. Johnstone added.
Since about one-third of kids don’t respond to current first-line treatments, and others report side effects, finding another viable treatment option for ADHD is likely to help a large number of kids.
"No treatment is 100% effective for all with ADHD," study author L. Eugene Arnold, MD, Professor Emeritus of Psychiatry & Behavioral Health at Ohio State University told Science Daily. "For example, about 2/3 respond to the first stimulant drug tried, which is an established first-line ADHD treatment despite emotional, appetite, and growth side effects. So, it's encouraging that a good half of the children responded to this relatively safe treatment."
Still, the authors note that further study needs to take place, such as examining why vitamins and minerals help kids with ADHD as well as what more specific behaviors they affect.