Researchers are examining whether vitamins and minerals may improve ADHD.
Past ADHD research has examined the effects of nutrition from processed food, elimination diets, food dyes and essential fatty acids, in an attempt to improve patient outcomes.
Now a controversial new study conducted in New Zealand shows that supplementing ADHD patients with micronutrients might hold promise.
The double-blind, randomised controlled trial in 80 adults with ADHD not taking stimulants compared a broad-based micronutrient formula containing 36 vitamins and minerals with placebo over eight weeks.
However, on the clinical global impressions (CGI) ADHD and overall scales, patients in the micronutrient group outperformed controls.
Lead author Professor Julia Rucklidge, a child psychology lecturer at the University of Canterbury, Christchurch, says CGI results are the gold standard and demonstrate the treatment’s efficacy.
“But most trials don’t use that broad range, self-report, observer and clinical report [and] that was the unique aspect of our study,” she says.
Professor Alasdair Vance, head of the Academic Child Psychiatry Unit at Melbourne’s Royal Children’s Hospital, agrees.
“The finding that self-report and observer report but not clinician report determined significant differences emphasises the need for multi-informant reporting of complex phenotypes like ADHD and its key comorbid conditions,” he says.
He says it’s a well-conducted study showing a definite signal, especially for a subgroup of ADHD sufferers where mood and anxiety symptoms are prominent.
Professor Rucklidge says short trial durations could explain why previous micronutrient trials for ADHD have failed.
“It takes a lot longer for the effect to be visible and so, in comparison to a stimulant, which has an effect within four hours, the micronutrient supplements often, but not always, can take two to four weeks to start seeing effects,” she says.
“She says micronutrients are controversial because people are “wedded to the medical model that ADHD can be treated with one drug”.
Professor Rucklidge, who has no conflicts of interest with the micronutrient supplier, is now conducting a micronutrients trial in children with ADHD.
This article first appeared on The Medical Observer on 11 March, 2014.