Food Supplements and ADHD

In past posts I have written about food supplements for ADHD. In this post I wrote about how Magnesium helps ADHD. I also wrote in this post of how zinc helps ADHD and I have written several posts including the post labeled Omega-3 for ADHD, which address the role, that the Omega-3 fatty acids play in helping ADHD.

A new study out of Germany tested 810 children ages 5-12 referred for evaluation of ADHD using a food supplement for ADHD that contained magnesium, zinc, and Omega-3 called ESPRICO and found that after 12 weeks of consuming the supplement, the children showed 'considerable' improvement in hyperactive/impulsive symptoms and in attention.

Zinc, magnesium and the omega-3 fatty acids are thought to help ADHD in different ways and it appears that in the case of zinc and omega-3, people with ADHD may have deficiencies that the magnesium and omega-3 food supplement address.

You do not need to go on the web and try to find this German supplement ( btw, I have not tried to find it and do not know if it is available in the U.S.). At my house my kids eat omega-3 enriched eggs and milk and either take an omega-3 supplement like Coromega or a fish oil capsule.   Magnesium is absorbed when taking a epson salts bath and magnesium and zinc are also found in the multigrain cereal and the multivitamins that my kids take.  I full description of those vitamins can be found at the post labeled What works at my house.

Magnesium is generally not found to be deficient in people with ADHD but it is sedating and magnesium may help ADHD by improving the sleep disorders that often accompany the diagnosis of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.

I have included the abstract for your reading pleasure but what I found the most interesting about this study is that the results point to the supplements greatly improving sleep disorders. I wrote in the last post that ADHD, sleep, and learning are tied together in a very tight knot. It is hard to separate the inattention of Inattentive ADHD (ADHD-PI) or the combined type of ADHD (ADHD-C) with the inattention of sleepiness.

Another recent study on adolescents without a diagnosis of ADHD has perfectly correlated the hours of sleep with school performance. There is a clear and parallel line between the amount of sleep and teenager gets and how well they will do in school. The fewer hours of sleep the child gets, the poorer they will do in school. Sleepiness affects your level of arousal and we have known for years that there is a 'perfect' level of arousal for learning.

Some researchers, especially in the old days of ADHD research, believe that folks with Hyperactive/Impulsive ADHD (ADHD-HI) or ADHD-C performed poorly in life and in school because their arousal level was too high and that individuals with ADHD-PI and with Sluggish Cognitive Tempo performed poorly because their arousal level was too low. I wish it was that simple.

Very young children have trouble getting their arousal level 'just right' and at some schools teachers have children who are over or under aroused jump on trampolines or have them run laps around the playground to adjust their arousal levels. This technique helps some both for young children and for adults but it rarely solves the problem for long in either population. Getting an adequate amount of sleep on the other hand has lasting effects through out the day and food supplements for ADHD that help sleep can only add to our arsenal of treatments for improving the symptoms that disrupt the lives of people with this problem.

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Lipids Health Dis. 2010 Sep 24;9:105.
Supplementation of polyunsaturated fatty acids, magnesium and zinc in children seeking medical advice for attention-deficit/hyperactivity problems - an observational cohort study. Huss M, Völp A, Stauss-Grabo M. 


BACKGROUND: Polyunsaturated fatty acids are essential nutrients for humans. They are structural and functional components of cell membranes and pre-stages of the hormonally and immunologically active eicosanoids. Recent discoveries have shown that the long-chained omega-3 fatty acids eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) also play an important role in the central nervous system. They are essential for normal brain functioning including attention and other neuropsychological skills.
MATERIALS AND METHODS: In our large observational study we monitored 810 children from 5 to 12 years of age referred for medical help and recommended for consuming polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA) in combination with zinc and magnesium by a physician over a period of at least 3 months. The food supplement ESPRICO® (further on referred to as the food supplement) is developed on the basis of current nutritional science and containing a combination of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids as well as magnesium and zinc. Study objective was to evaluate the nutritional effects of the PUFA-zinc-magnesium combination on symptoms of attention deficit, impulsivity, and hyperactivity as well as on emotional problems and sleep related parameters. Assessment was performed by internationally standardised evaluation scales, i.e. SNAP-IV and SDQ. Tolerance (adverse events) and acceptance (compliance) of the dietary therapy were documented.
RESULTS: After 12 weeks of consumption of a combination of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids as well as magnesium and zinc most subjects showed a considerable reduction in symptoms of attention deficit and hyperactivity/impulsivity assessed by SNAP-IV. Further, the assessment by SDQ revealed fewer emotional problems at the end of the study period compared to baseline and also sleeping disorders. Mainly problems to fall asleep, decreased during the 12 week nutritional therapy. Regarding safety, no serious adverse events occurred. A total of 16 adverse events with a possible causal relationship to the study medication were reported by 14 children (1.7%) and only 5.2% of the children discontinued the study due to acceptance problems. Continuation of consumption of the food supplement was recommended by the paediatricians for 61.1% of the children.
CONCLUSION: Our results suggest a beneficial effect of a combination of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids as well as magnesium and zinc consumption on attentional, behavioural, and emotional problems of children and adolescents. Thus, considering the behavioral benefit in combination with the low risk due to a good safety profile, the dietary supplementation with PUFA in combination with zinc and magnesium can be recommended.


  1. I like the fact that there are supplements for this kind of disorder. It's also a good thing that the results are positive.


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