For people with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), treatment often includes stimulant drugs meant to “activate brain circuits that support attention and focused behavior, thus reducing hyperactivity,” according to the National Institutes of Health. For people who for some reason can’t handle or respond to these drugs, vitamins and minerals, which often come as supplements, may be just as effective, according to a new study.
“Although some practitioners have been using micronutrients to treat mental illness for many decades, the research has been scant or non-existent,” said lead author of the study, Julia Rucklidge, of the University of Canterbury, in New Zealand, according to 3News. Because of a lack of evidence — most of it is anecdotal — doctors often go with what has been proven to work: medication like Ritalin or Adderall.
Vitamin and mineral (micronutrient) supplements, however, have been proven to have some positive effects on the human mind. One study found that folic acid, a form of vitamin B9, could slow the rate at which the brain’s gray matter deteriorates, therefore, helping to delay the onset of Alzheimer’s disease. Another two studies from last month showed how vitamin E helped fight against memory disorders. And considering that paying attention is a key factor in working memory — after all, you need to remember/pay attention to what someone said in a conversation to respond — it’s possible that vitamins may help people with ADHD focus.
For the study, Rucklidge and her team studied 80 adults who took either a micronutrient supplement or a placebo for eight weeks. The micronutrient capsule, called EMPowerplus, contained a total of 14 vitamins, 16 minerals, three amino acids, and three antioxidants. Both groups were told to take 15 capsules per day in three doses of five capsules with food and water, Medscape reported.
After the trial ended, those who took the micronutrient capsules said they were more attentive and that their impulses and hyperactivity had reduced. The researchers also looked for a backup opinion, finding that parents, friends, and family members saw these improvements as well. “Our study provides preliminary evidence of the effectiveness for micronutrients in the treatment of ADHD symptoms in adults,” Rucklidge said, according to the BBC.
The study is important, because it shows the benefits of taking micronutrient supplements. Furthermore, the supplement’s manufacturer didn’t fund the study. “One could not make this statement about most medication trials,” Dr. Bonnie Kaplan told Medscape. “Another important novelty is that they studied a broad-spectrum vitamin plus mineral formula, which is likely the way in which humans evolved to need nutrients. Single-nutrient research does not respect the fact that we need all these vitamins and minerals every day, and in balance.”
Further research is still necessary, however, to determine that micronutrient supplements are indeed capable of treating ADHD. If they are, then they “will offer people with ADHD another treatment option,” Rucklidge said in a press release.
Source: Rucklidge J, Frampton C, Forman B, et al. Vitamin-mineral treatment of attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder in adults: double-blind randomised placebo-controlled trial. British Journal of Psychiatry. 2014.