Supplements Treat ADHD
Children suffering from attention deficit–hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) may benefit from taking magnesium and vitamin B6, reports a study in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition (2004;23:545S–48S).
ADHD is a behavioral disorder characterized by inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity. Children affected by ADHD are easily distracted and have difficulty completing tasks. They are also prone to excessive fidgeting and may not be able to wait their turn. While many children may display some of these behaviors, in children with ADHD the symptoms are pronounced enough that they interfere with normal functioning. The disorder usually shows up during the preschool and early school years, affecting 3 to 10% of children in the US. There is a possible correlation between ADHD development in children whose mothers smoke cigarettes and drink alcohol during pregnancy. Children with ADHD are also more likely than other children to go on to smoke and abuse drugs or alcohol.
Treatments for ADHD typically involve the use of stimulant medications such as amphetamine mixtures (Adderall™), methylphenidate (Ritalin™), or pemoline (Cylert™). These medications carry the risk of side effects including abnormal heartbeat (Adderall™ and Ritalin™), anemia (Ritalin™), and liver problems (Cylert™). Up to 30% of children with ADHD either do not respond to stimulant medications or are unable to tolerate the side effects of these drugs. A newer drug called atomoxetine (Strattera™) is a nonstimulant medication for the treatment of ADHD, however, this drug is not without side effects, either; it may cause upset stomach, nausea, vomiting, and rare serious allergic reactions.
Magnesium deficiencies have been previously reported among children with ADHD, and supplementing with magnesium has been shown to decrease hyperactivity. The new study investigated the effect of a combination of magnesium and vitamin B6 in 52 children under age 15 with ADHD. The dosage was not clear, but appeared to be 6 mg per kilogram of body weight per day of magnesium and 0.8 mg per kilogram of body weight per day of vitamin B6 for a period of one to six months. This would amount to about 100 mg of magnesium and 13 mg of vitamin B6 per day for a child weighing between 35 and 40 pounds. Measurements of magnesium concentrations in red blood cells were performed on the participants before and after the supplementation period. Symptoms of hyperexcitability were also assessed, including physical aggression, mood instability, inattention in school, tense muscles, tremors, muscle spasms, and abnormal muscle contractions.
At the beginning of the study, 30 of the 52 children had red blood cell magnesium levels below the normal range. After treatment with magnesium and vitamin B6, the magnesium levels of these participants increased into the normal range. Significant improvements were seen among all of the participants in hyperexcitability symptoms after treatment.
It appears that supplementing with magnesium and vitamin B6 may help reduce some of the symptoms associated with ADHD. Considering the limited effectiveness and potential risks associated with the medical treatment of the condition, this combination of supplements should be considered for children with ADHD.
Kimberly Beauchamp, ND, received her bachelor’s degree from the University of Rhode Island and her Doctorate of Naturopathic Medicine from Bastyr University in Kenmore, WA. She is a co-founder and practicing physician at South County Naturopaths, Inc., in Wakefield, RI. Dr. Beauchamp teaches holistic medicine classes and provides consultations focusing on detoxification and whole-foods nutrition.
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