Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. Officially classified as a brain disorder,1this condition can be a blessing for some and a curse for others.
The U.S. National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) explains that the condition is characterized by a pattern of inattention and/or hyperactivity-impulsivity that interferes with functioning or development. Usually just called “ADHD” (because who has the attention span to say all of those other words?), its primary defining behaviors include:
Inattention: A person wanders off task, lacks persistence, has difficulty sustaining focus, and is disorganized.1
Hyperactivity: A person seems to move about constantly, including in situations in which it is not appropriate; or excessively fidgets, taps, or talks.1
Impulsivity: A person makes hasty actions that occur in the moment without first thinking about them and that may have high potential for harm; or a desire for immediate rewards or inability to delay gratification.1
ADHD can be a curse for children who don’t fit into the mold in settings like traditional educational institutions.
Interestingly, ADHD has proven to be a blessing for Olympic champions like snowboarder Shaun White, downhill skier Bode Miller, and superstar swimmer Michael Phelps. Writing about the exploits of these Team USA Olympians, Garret LoPorto asks, “Why does it seem like the unique qualities of Olympic superstars are also the very symptoms of ADHD? Hyperactivity, thrill-seeking, recklessness, hyper-focus, rebelliousness and impulsiveness, all primary ‘symptoms’ of ADHD, are proving to provide the winning edge that gives an athlete supernormal abilities in competition.”2
While White, Miller, and Phelps were lucky enough to grow up in settings where their families helped channel their gifts in unconventional ways, many children and adults with ADHD are simply trying to survive as they navigate the constraints within our traditional, buttoned-up society.
According to NIMH, ADHD treatments include medication, psychotherapy, education or training, or a combination of treatments. Many people—frustrated by continuing struggles to stay organized and just fit in—search for additional solutions, including nutritional supplements.
Researchers have looked into the potential role of several supplements in helping to manage symptoms of ADHD. Based on the knowledge that patients with ADHD have been found to have reduced levels of vitamin D, zinc, ferritin, and magnesium, a team from the University of Arizona and Mercy Children’s Hospital in St. Louis reviewed the published literatureon nutritional deficiencies of these vitamin and mineral levels and their association with ADHD. Their larger goal was to be able to guide clinicians on possible appropriate laboratory screening measures for children presenting with symptoms consistent with ADHD.3
What did they conclude? Here are the summaries for each of the vitamins and minerals studied:
ZINC:“Zinc plays an important role in neurologic functioning. ADHD has been associated with lower levels of hair, plasma, serum, and urinary zinc. Although the efficacy of supplementation with zinc is not definitively clear, there is evidence to support that many children even in developed countries have sub-optimal levels of zinc intake… Checking plasma/serum levels of zinc (suggestive of short term zinc status) and/or hair zinc (suggestive of long term zinc status) may be appropriate for individuals not responding to conventional treatments for ADHD and populations at higher risk of zinc deficiency (e.g., vegetarians). It has been recommended that zinc in RDA/RDI dosages as part of a balanced vitamin/mineral supplement is a safe and cost effective intervention.”3
For guidance on recommended zinc intakes and potential food sources, click here.4