A recent research study to be published in the August 2010 issue of Child Psychiatry and Human Development found that low blood levels for zinc and iron are associated with symptoms of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder based on scores on the Conner’s Parent Rating Scale through the low levels were not associated with higher scores on the Conner’s Teacher Rating Scale.
There were 118 with ADHD (ages 7-14 years). While Conduct Problems and Anxiety were associated with lower zinc levels, increased Hyperactivity scores were related to both lower zinc and iron levels. It is known that these two minerals as involved with dopamine metabolism, one of the two neurotransmitters related to ADHD.
Parents may want to ask their child’s physician to check these levels and recommend supplements if they are found to be out of the normal range. Parents should be cautioned however, to not rush to some the supplement products on the market containing zinc and/or iron. Unless a child’s level is low for either of these two minerals, there is no evidence that boosting normal levels would be beneficial and could be harmful.
It is known that a healthy diet and regular exercise is good for brain development for all children and certainly beneficial for children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. With the exception of fish oil with Omega 3 antioxidants, no other supplements containing mega doses of vitamins, minerals or other “natural” substances have been proven through rigorous scientific research to be beneficial for kids with ADHD.
Parents concerned about their child’s ADHD symptoms should rely on treatment recommended by professional organizations which are (1) behavioral interventions, (2) school interventions and (3) stimulant medication for severe symptoms that do not respond to the first two approaches.
Many parents find it difficult to find an effective, affordable and user friendly option for behavioral interventions. Total Focus is a comprehensive behavioral program using evidence-based techniques to improve behavior, learning, self-esteem and social skills. Parents and children work together as a team to bring about real lasting change involving activities that are fun and require less than an hour per day. Total Focus costs less than one visit to a mental health professional.
I fully understand the concerns of parents regarding medication for ADHD. My wife and I struggled with this when my son was 5. He had a great response to stimulant medication and remained on medication until he was 14. He suffered no observable side effects. He is a 6’4” guy who completed college with honors and has been employed for 5 years in the film industry and currently is an editor for a top rated cable network show. We were at our wits end and what we called “the small vitamin” was a miracle drug. At home we also used psychosocial interventions from time to time during his formative years.
During my years as a child psychologist, I have been able to help many children with mild to moderate symptoms of ADHD do well at home and school without medication using psychological interventions. However, children with more severe symptoms benefit greatly from medication. Current guidelines now state that behavioral interventions should be tried first for mild to moderate symptoms and also should be used for more severe manifestations along with medications which may reduce the dose needed to control symptoms and may reduce the length of time required to remain on medication.