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Insight into the Efficacy of Supplements to Treat Adult ADHD

written by: jamesj • edited by: Paul Arnold • updated: 1/17/2011

There are many who believe that adult ADHD supplements are effective in treating the disorder. However, the jury is still out as there have been few scientific studies about them. This article looks at those supplements that are said to work.

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    ADHD treatments

    Just as there is controversy surrounding ADHD, there is also controversy around the efficacy of adult ADHD supplements. Studies tend to focus on children, so it is difficult to gain insight into the efficacy of supplements to treat adult ADHD.

    There are many testimonials and claims about the value of various supplements. Even so, the Mayo Clinic notes that there is little if any scientific data available to back up those claims.

    There are three types of ADHD:

    1) Predominantly Hyperactive-Impulsive ADHD

    2) Predominantly Inattentive Type ADHD

    3) Combined Type - has inattention and hyperactivity-impulsivity symptoms.

    Typically adults tend to have the inattentive type of ADHD.

    As is the case with children, adults are often prescribed stimulants or other medications to correct the chemical imbalance caused by ADHD.

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    Supplements

    Many people swear by their supplements. It is easy to find people who think they are effective. Most scientific type studies say they either are not effective or that not enough information is available. Here are a few supplements often used by people with ADHD:

    • One of the most promising supplements is Omega-3 fatty acids. The brain does need these fatty acids to function properly, but the Omega-3 supplement has been shown to improve mood in general. Omega-3 is not produced naturally in the body.
    • St. John's wort is another supplement said to help with depression. This is a herb that has qualities that can elevate one's mood. But as in is the case with Omega-3, there is no proof as of yet that it helps with ADHD. Herbal medicines such as Ginko and Ginseng would also fall under this category.
    • Flaxseed Oil has some promise, and is similar to the Omega-3 type supplement. Flaxseed oil could replace deficiencies of highly unsaturated fatty acids - the shortage of which is believed to contribute to ADHD. The National Institute of Health reports that flaxseed oil could improve ADHD symptoms such as inattention and impulsivity.
    • Vitamins of various types are also suggested at times for ADHD. Vitamins are essential for being healthy, and a healthy body might be able to compensate for ADHD to some degree, but as of yet there remains no conclusive data. Also, megavitamins are sometimes used, but health officials say that in some circumstances they can cause more harm than good.
    • Zinc is a supplement that has some promise. Zinc is necessary for the proper function of enzymes and plays a vital role in many biological functions in the body. Zinc has been shown to help with hyperactive and impulsiveness symptoms, though not inattentiveness. A study by Iranian doctors showed marked improvement in children who took zinc, as compared to those who took a placebo. The study was quoted by a University of Michigan health paper.
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    References

    Mayo Clinic: ADHD Alternative Medicine

    ADHD News: St. Johns Wort

    Healthline: Zinc