Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder
If you or your child has just been diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), don't despair. While in the past, a frightening regimen of powerful pharmaceuticals was used for this disorder, newer findings in nutrition and wellness are providing less invasive options for treating and preventing ADHD. ADHD is a condition marked by an inability to pay attention, concentrate, or complete tasks, sometimes accompanied by hyperactivity that occurs in both adults and children. Previously it was called simply attention deficit disorder (ADD), but clinicians now refer to this disorder as ADHD and differentiate three types: inattentive, hyperactive-compulsive, and combined.
Essential fatty acids (EFAs) are the most important nutrients to consider in the battle against ADHD. For example, one study found that a deficiency of long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids is linked to ADHD (Richardson et al. 2000a; 2000b). Another study found that deficiencies in highly unsaturated fatty acids (HUFAs) cause the symptoms of ADHD. After 12 weeks of supplementation with HUFAs, researchers found major improvements in ADHD-related symptoms in children with specific learning difficulties such as dyslexia (Richardson et al. 2002).
Some ADHD diagnoses might be EFA deficiencies in disguise. One study found that ADHD patients reporting symptoms indicative of EFA deficiency had significantly lower levels of plasma arachidonic acid (AA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) than did ADHD patients without these symptoms or controls. In this study patients with low omega-3 fatty acid levels had more temper tantrums and learning, health, and sleep problems than those with high levels of these fatty acids (Burgess et al. 2000). DHA supplementation has proven helpful in people with ADHD (Voigt et al. 2001). DHA can be found in deep-sea, cold-water fatty fish, such as salmon, herring, and tuna; sea vegetables (which is where fish obtain DHA); and microalgae. Supplements are derived from these sources. Linoleic and linolenic acids found in products such as flax and hempseed oil are precursors of DHA and AA, but their manufacture in the body can be blocked by saturated and trans fats.
Vitamins may help prevent and treat ADHD by protecting the nervous system from free radical attack and supporting the body in making neurotransmitters. Sociologists Schoenthaler et al. (2000) found that multivitamin supplementation of school-age children (ages 6-12) with behavioral problems such as ADHD helps control antisocial behaviors.