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Vitamins, minerals improve symptoms for children with ADHD

OHSU researchers found children given supplemental micronutrients were three times more likely to have better concentration, moods

In this video, Victor, age 9, struggles with developmental delays, learning and concentration. His family has been giving him micronutirents as part of the Micronutrients for ADHD Youth study at Oregon Health & Science University, and it's changed his life. (OHSU)

Children with ADHD and emotional dysregulation who were given a micronutrient-dense formula made of all known vitamins and essential minerals were three times more likely to have better concentration and improved moods, research from Oregon Health & Science University found.

The findings, featured on the May cover of the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, may provide another treatment option for clinicians and families.

In the study, 54% of the children who were given supplemental vitamins and minerals showed improvement in their symptoms, versus 18% in the placebo group. 

Jeanette Johnstone, Ph.D. (OHSU) poses against a light brown background.
Jeanette Johnstone, Ph.D. (OHSU)

“These findings, replicating results of a previous randomized trial of micronutrients in children with ADHD conducted in New Zealand, confirm that supplementation with a broad range of nutrients may benefit some children,” said lead author Jeanette Johnstone, Ph.D., assistant professor of child and adolescent psychiatry in the OHSU School of Medicine. “ADHD is a common diagnosis, affecting upward of 7% of children, and common pharmacologic treatments can cause adverse side effects. Supplementing micronutrients may be an exciting integrative treatment for many families.”

The study included 135 children with ADHD and emotional dysregulation at three sites: Portland; Columbus, Ohio; and Alberta, Canada. The children, ages 6 to 12, were not taking any medications. Participants were randomly assigned to two groups: One was provided micronutrient capsules that contained all known vitamins and essential minerals at doses between the recommended daily allowance and upper tolerable limit; and, the other received placebo capsules that did not contain the extra micronutrients. The study was blinded, so neither children, their parents nor the researchers knew which capsules they were given.

After eight weeks, more than half of the micronutrient group showed improvement in their concentration and mood. Children taking the micronutrients also grew 6 millimeters more than those taking a placebo.

Additionally, the micronutrient group did not experience more adverse side effects than the placebo group; there were no significant differences between the two groups in their blood and urine safety labs.

“The growth finding, also a replication from the previous child micronutrient study, is particularly encouraging,” Johnstone said. “Evidence of ADHD medication causing height suppression has been a concern. These findings suggest that vitamin and mineral supplementation at sufficient doses may avoid the growth suppression associated with other treatment options.”

Johnstone said future studies will seek to understand how and why micronutrients improve attention and mood, examining changes in gut microbiome and other indicators.

The study was funded through private donations to the Nutrition and Mental Health Research Fund, managed by the Foundation for Excellence in Mental Health Care (FEMHC), plus a direct grant from FEMHC, and from the Gratis Foundation. Authors also received support from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH) 5R90AT00892403 to the National University for Natural Medicine, NIH-NCCIH T32 AT002688 to Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU); the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences of the NIH, UL1TR000128, UL1TR002369; 8UL1TR000090-05 at OHSU and Ohio State University; OHSU’s Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry; the Department of Behavioral Health and Psychiatry and the Research Institute at Nationwide Children’s Hospital, the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Health as well as the Department of Human Sciences at Ohio State University. Dr. Gracious received support from the Jeffrey Fellowship. In Canada, funding was received through the Nutrition and Mental Health Fund, administered by the Calgary Foundation. Dr. Leung is supported by the Emmy Droog Chair in Complementary and Alternative Healthcare. Hardy Nutritionals provided the active and placebo capsules; they did not provide study funding, nor had any involvement in the data analyses or interpretation. The study funders had no role in the design or reporting of the study.

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