Can Supplements Lower the Symptoms of ADHD?

Children with ADHD often lack magnesium and zinc and supplement of these vitamins may improve ADHD symptoms such as hyperactivity and impulsivity.

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Mar 14, 2019

Tiimo member

March 14, 2019
Ingibjörg Ferrer
Science Writer

Several studies have shown that, at large, people with ADHD have less magnesium (Mg) and zinc (Zn) in their bodies than the control groups that don’t have ADHD. One research, conducted in 2017, found a significant difference between the control group and the group of people with ADHD. They concluded that 10% of people in the control group had Mg and Zn deficiency while 65% and 70% of the group of people with ADHD had Mg and Zn deficiency (1). All of the researches we reference in this blog post had similar results.

How do the deficiencies affect us?

Research show that calcium, magnesium and zinc are deficient on the tissue mineral analyses of many ADHD children. Supplementation with these minerals alone may lower the symptoms of ADHD.

Zinc is a vital component of the nervous system and neurotransmitters. A zinc deficiency may create a functional deficiency, as zinc is an important cofactor for more than 300 other nutrients which support the growth and development.

Magnesium deficiency is shown by reductions in cognitive ability and processing, a reduced attention span along with an increased aggression, mood swings, fatigue and lack of concentration. All symptoms that all overlap with the symptoms of ADHD, leading experts of ADHD to hypothesize that children with ADHD might have a deficiency of magnesium as well. Moreover, magnesium can improve sleep disturbance seen in ADHD which may positively affect the attention deficit (1).

“Apart from Zn and Mg, concentrations of iron (Fe) are also implicated in the metabolism of neuro transmitters, thereby proving beneficial in neuro developmental disorders. [...]Deficiency of Fe in childhood has shown to affect development of the central nervous system, leading to behavioral disorders and mental retardation.” (2).

The levels of minerals especially Zn, Mg and Fe in the blood of ADHD children have shown to be lower than their control group. Though additional studies are warranted, supplementations to a healthy diet have proved to be beneficial (2).

The levels of minerals especially Zn, Mg and Fe in the blood of ADHD children have shown to be lower than their control group. Though additional studies are warranted, supplementations to a healthy diet have proved to be beneficial (2).

In a study that included people with ADHD and magnesium deficiency, it was researched how they would be affected if they would get treated with magnesium, while a control group wasn’t treated. The results showed a clear improvement in behaviour for those treated and a correlation between Mg intake and lowering of symptoms, see chart below (3).

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Supplements or change in diet?

Please ask a doctor before adding supplements to your diet. You can request a blood test to see the levels of vitamins and minerals in your body and therefore find deficiencies. An alternative solution would be to include foods in your diet that contains magnesium, zinc and iron.

If you choose to do so, you can look into these few categories that contain Mg, Fe, Zn (4).

Magnesium

Greens: Cooked Spinach (37%), Cooked Swiss chard (36%), Cooked Lima Beans (30%), Kale (18%), Artichokes (18%), Cooked Green Peas (15%), Mashed Sweet Potatoes (15%), Collard Greens (10%), turnip greens (8%).

Beans: Edamame (35%), Firm Tofu (35%), Lima Beans (30%), white beans (29%), black beans (29%), Mungo Beans (27%), Baked beans (26%), black-eyed peas (22%), Canned Refried Beans (22%), Pinto Beans (20%), kidney beans (19%), chickpeas (19%), lentils (17%).

Nuts & Seeds: Hemp seeds (47%), Squash and Pumpkin seeds (40%), flax seeds (27%), Brazil Nuts (25%), sesame seeds (24%), chia seeds (23%), Dry Cashews (20%), Almonds (18%), Dry Roasted Peanuts (12%).

Cooked Grains: Uncooked Oats (66%), Quinoa (28%), spelt (23%), Brown Rice (20%), Buckwheat (20%), Bulgur(14%), wild rice (12%), whole wheat pasta (15%), Oatmeal (15%)

Fruit: Dried Figs (24%), Prunes (21%), Apricots (19%), Dates (16%), Zante Currants (15%), Avocados (14%), Raisins (14%), Bananas (10%)

Zinc

Greens: Cooked Shiitake mushrooms (18%), Cooked Green Beans (17%), Peas (16%), Bamboo Shoots 15%, Cooked Spinach (12%), Cooked White button Mushrooms (12%).

Beans: Canned Baked Beans (53%), Firm Tofu (36%), Cooked Lentils (23%), Cooked Chickpeas (23%), Coocked large white beans (22%), Black-eyed peas 20%, Edamame (19%), Split peas (18%), black beans (18%), Kidney beans (16%), Mungo Beans (15%).

Nuts and seeds: Hemp Seeds (26%), Squash and Pumpkin seeds (20%), Pine nuts (17%), Dry Roasted Cashews (14%), Sunflower seeds (14%), Chia Seeds (12%), Flax seeds (11%), Brazil Nuts (10%).

Cooked Grains: Uncooked Oats (56%), Uncooked Buckwheat (37%), oatmeal (21%), Wild Rice (20%), Quinoa (18%), Whole Weat Pasta (14%), Long-grain rice (13%), Barley (12%), Brown Rice (11%).

Fruit: California Avocados (14%), Mammy Apple (8%), Blackberries (7%), Pomegranates (6%), Raspberries (5%), Guavas (3%).

Iron

Greens: Morel Mushrooms (45%), Cooked Spinach (36%), Lemon Grass (30%), Canned Tomato Puree (25%), Cooked Swiss Chard (22%), Kimchi (21%), Mashed Sweet Potatoes (19%), Cooked Turnip Greens (16%), Asparagus (16%).

Beans: Large White Beans (37%), Soybeans (49%), Lentils (37%), Kidney beans (29%), Garbanzo beans (Chickpeas) (26%), and Lima beans (25%), Navy (24%), Black Beans (Frijoles Negros) (20%), Pinto (20%), and Black-eyed Peas (20%). Nuts and seeds: Squash and Pumpkin seeds (14%), Sesame (23%), Sunflower (11%), and Flax (9%), Cashews (9%), Pine nuts (9%), Hazelnuts (7%), Peanuts (7%), Almonds (7%), Pistachios (7%), and Macadamia (6%).

Cooked Grains: Uncooked Oats (41%), Uncooked Buckwheat (21%), Spelt (18%), Quinoa (15%), Egg Noodles (13%), Oatmeal (12%), Barley (12%), Rice (11%), Bulgur (10%).

Dried fruit: Apricots (42%), Peaches (36%), Prunes (26%), Figs (17%), Raisins (17%), and Apples (7%).


  1. ICD-11 for Mortality and Morbidity Statistics, Icd.who.int, viewed 10 Jan. 2019, https://icd.who.int/browse11/l-m/en#/http%3a%2f%2fid.who.int%2ficd%2fentity%2f821852937

  2. Faraone, S. V. et al. Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder. PubMed - NCBI, viewed 9 Jan. 2019, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27189265

  3. Nimh.nih.gov. 2019, Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder, National Institute of Mental Health (NIH), viewed 9 Jan. 2019, https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/attention-deficit-hyperactivity-disorder-adhd/index.shtml

  4. Jepsen, J 2014, Bag symptomerne og ind til barnet, Siesta, Viborg

  5. 2018, Attention-Deficit / Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, viewed 9 Jan. 2019, https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/adhd/facts.html

  6. Elbaz, F., Zahra, S., & Hanafy, H. (2017). Magnesium, zinc and copper estimation in children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Egyptian Journal of Medical Human Genetics, 18(2), 153-163. https://www.ajol.info/index.php/ejhg/article/view/156425/146037

  7. Khan, S. A. (2017). Levels of Zinc, Magnesium and Iron in Children with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. Electronic Journal of Biology, 13(2), 183-187. https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/845e/5b1bf8f0e95df0a7561b5fc3542303786d55.pdf

  8. El Baza, F., Al Shahawi, H. A., Zahra, S., & AbdelHakim, R. A. (2016). Magnesium supplementation in children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Egyptian Journal of Medical Human Genetics, 17(1), 63-70. https://www.ajol.info/index.php/ejhg/article/view/130933/120517

  9. https://www.myfooddata.com/

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