Deficiencies in Amino Acids, Zinc, Iron, Magnesium, Omega-3 and Vitamins: Find out what is and is not related to ADHD symptoms.
As more and more people are diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), there has been a significant increase in research into the symptoms and treatments for this disease.
More 7% of children and 3% of adults around the world have ADHD.
Much ADHD research has focused on the underdevelopment of the prefrontal cortex, the front part of your brain, which is responsible for your thoughts and behaviors.
Researchers are also studying whether a lack of vitamins and minerals, such as certain amino acids, may play a role in ADHD symptoms.
Over the years, our understanding of these vitamins and minerals has evolved. Current research suggests that amino acid supplements are not an effective treatment for ADHD symptoms. However, other supplements can help.
Amino acids are the building blocks of protein throughout your body. Proteins make up many different structures and perform many essential functions, including:
- break food
- growth of cells and tissues throughout your body
- repair the tissues in your body
- signaling between neurons in the brain
Amino acids can be classified into three groups:
- Essential amino acids. These must come from the food. The body cannot make them.
- Non-essential amino acids. This is what our bodies can produce, even if we don’t get them from food.
- Conditional amino acids. These are only essential if you are stressed or sick.
You eat amino acids in the form of protein in your diet. When your body breaks down or digests protein, amino acids are the products your body then uses.
While you don’t need to eat essential and non-essential amino acids with every meal, consider aiming for a good balance throughout the day.
Fortunately, there are a lot of food sources to choose from which provide the nine essential amino acids. These are called complete proteins and include:
However, as long as your child eats a variety of vegetable proteins sources over the course of the day, they will likely get good amounts of all nine essential amino acids.
Consider talking to a healthcare professional if you want to make sure your child is getting all of the amino acids they need every day.
Amino acids and neurotransmitters
Certain amino acids are precursor molecules that your body turns into neurotransmitters – signal molecules that your nervous system uses to send messages between neurons or from neurons to muscles. Other amino acids influence cell signaling in other ways.
Serotonin is one of these neurotransmitters. It plays a role in mood and is often referred to as the “chemical of happiness”.
Tryptophan is a precursor amino acid for serotonin. It can help improve mood, according to experts.
The relationships that scientists have discovered between amino acids and neurotransmitters in the body have made people wonder if taking amino acid supplements could be of benefit for people with ADHD.
Research to date suggests that amino acid deficiencies are not linked to ADHD.
Older research suggests that the brains of children with ADHD may have a reduced tendency to carry certain essential amino acids that affect serotonin and other neurotransmitters.
Lysine, tyrosine, glutamine, glycine, and tryptophan were some of the amino acids research focused on.
But, over time, researchers have done more studies in this area, and the latest findings tell a different story.
In 2016, a group of
These are called aromatic amino acids (AAA). The levels of these AAAs in your body affect the creation of the neurotransmitters serotonin and dopamine.
However, the researchers concluded that there was no difference in the amount of AAA between children with ADHD and those without ADHD.
In 2018, another to study examined the amounts of amino acids in the diets of children and students with and without ADHD.
He found that there was a slight difference in the intake of three non-essential amino acids in children, but no difference in students.
A review Research on dietary interventions and ADHD has not found any evidence to support amino acid supplements reduce symptoms of the disease.
Over the years, researchers have explored the potential link between ADHD and other nutrients.
Research showed a strong association between low levels of zinc in children’s blood and hair samples and the severity of their ADHD symptoms.
Socket zinc supplements can help normalize the brain waves of a child with ADHD. It can also improve their memory and information processing, and has been shown to decrease hyperactivity and impulsivity in children with ADHD.
Modern diets have all but eliminated magnesium, leading some children and adults to become mineral deficient. This can be due to a combination of factors, including processed foods and refined grains, as well as fertilizers used in food production.
In 2016, researchers found that 72% of children with ADHD did not consume enough magnesium.
Over the course of 8 weeks, a group of children received 200 milligrams of magnesium per day, in addition to their usual medication.
Those who took the magnesium supplements experienced improved measures of cognition. They also showed minor side effects of taking magnesium – mainly diarrhea and minor stomach pain.
The iron is an essential building block for the brain, and not getting enough iron can affect everything from how you think to your coordination, depending on research. It is not uncommon for people with ADHD to suffer from iron deficiency as well.
Studies have shown that children with iron deficiency have more difficulty concentrating and doing well in school.
Some research has shown that ADHD in children is associated with nutritional deficiencies of zinc, iron and magnesium, as well as other nutrients.
omega-3 fatty acids
omega-3 fatty acids are important for a child’s brain development, according to
While not all children with ADHD are deficient in omega-3 fatty acids, some are.
a analysis of 2014 studies found that consuming fish oil supplements appeared to be the most promising dietary intervention for ADHD, alongside elimination diets. Fish oil is rich in omega-3 fatty acids.
If you want to know your child’s omega-3 levels, consider asking a healthcare professional for a blood test. As this is not a commonly ordered test, insurance may not cover it. Home tests are available if needed.
Vitamin B6 plays an important role when it comes to ADHD. If you don’t have enough, you might feel more irritable and tired. Increasing this essential vitamin will make you more alert and decrease your anxiety.
Plus, vitamin B6 helps other important nutrients do their job. It works with magnesium to create a normal level of magnesium in the blood. It also works with zinc to help the body create serotonin, according to research.
From what researchers have found so far, vitamin D supplements may help reduce symptoms in people with ADHD.
Over the years, many studies have examined the link between low levels of Vitamin D and ADHD. In 2019, a group of researchers reviewed eight different studies, which included over 11,000 children, of whom 2,655 had ADHD.
They found that children with ADHD had significantly lower vitamin D levels than their neurotypical peers.
In a 2016 study, the researchers prescribed stimulant drugs to all participating children with ADHD, but one group also received 2,000 IU of vitamin D per day.
After 8 weeks, the group that received vitamin D showed a decrease in ADHD symptoms during the day and evening, while the group without vitamin D showed a decrease only during the day.
Taking a supplement can help your child with ADHD if they are deficient in that particular amino acid or another nutrient.
However, current research does not show that taking amino acid supplements helps relieve ADHD symptoms.
Overall, taking ADHD supplements is not always helpful.
This is because, generally, they are only beneficial if you do not have enough nutrients. For example, healthcare professionals may ask your child to take a blood test before recommending supplements.
If your child has ADHD and you are considering supplementing them, consider seeing a doctor first.
If the blood test shows nutrient deficiencies, your healthcare professional may recommend adding supplements to your child’s daily routine.
A healthcare professional can assess your child’s current levels and potential risks to make sure the treatment they are receiving is safe and suitable for their needs.