What are the best supplements for ADHD? 4 options
Medication is the most common treatment for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Some people also turn to supplements. While research suggests certain supplements may improve symptoms in some people, more research is needed to confirm their effectiveness.
ADHD is common, affecting almost 10% of children in the United States. About 3 in 4 children receive treatment, such as therapy, medication, or both. ADHD also affects around 4.4% of adults in the United States.
The condition affects everyone differently. Symptoms of ADHD can include:
- Inattention: making mistakes at school or work, often losing items, or having difficulty organizing and prioritizing
- Impulsivity: talking before considering what to say, a tendency to interrupt, or trouble waiting your turn
- Hyperactivity: fidgeting, excessive talking, or trouble sitting still
Magnesium is a mineral. It’s essential for your body’s nervous system, regulating blood pressure and blood sugar, maintaining healthy muscles and bones, and more. Some believe it can be a beneficial supplement for ADHD management.
A 2019 review that included seven studies found that people with ADHD had lower blood magnesium levels than people without the condition. However, it was noted that the study participants weren’t representative of the general population.
Plus, a smaller 2021 study in 66 children with ADHD found that supplementing with a combination of vitamin D and magnesium improved ADHD symptoms. It is not possible to establish if any of the observed benefits would apply if the children had taken only vitamin D or magnesium.
Due to the caveats, more research is needed to confirm how magnesium may benefit those with ADHD.
Omega-3 fatty acids
Omega-3 fatty acids are important for brain, heart, and joint health. Plus, some studies have suggested that omega-3 fatty acids may help manage ADHD.
A large review from 2018 found that children and adolescents with ADHD had lower blood levels of omega-3s and that supplementing with these fatty acids improved certain ADHD symptoms, including inattention.
Another large review from 2017 concluded that omega-3 supplements might improve ADHD symptoms in all age groups. However, it also highlighted the varying quality of the available studies.
Ultimately, although omega-3s appear to be a promising supplement to support ADHD management, more research is needed to learn more about their effectiveness.
Iron is essential for brain health, carrying oxygen through your blood, maintaining a healthy immune system, and more.
This was also studied in a meta-analysis from 2018 that included 17 trials. The analysis associated iron deficiency and low blood ferritin levels — a protein that stores iron within your cells — with more severe ADHD symptoms in children.
This indicates that iron supplements could help manage ADHD symptoms in people who are deficient or who have anemia, though more research is needed.
There are many B vitamins, all boasting different functions within your body.
In a 2016 study, researchers analyzed blood samples from adults with ADHD. They associated lower concentrations of vitamins B2 (riboflavin), B6 (pyridoxine), and B9 (folate) with ADHD diagnosis. Lower concentrations of B2 and B6 were associated with more severe symptoms.
Similarly, a small 2018 study involving 60 children found that those with ADHD had lower blood levels of vitamin B12 (cobalamin), B6, and B9 than those without the condition.
Still, as with the other supplements in this list, more research is needed to learn more about how B vitamin supplements might benefit people with ADHD.
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ADHD medication is the most common approach for managing symptoms.
Doctors commonly prescribe stimulant medications for ADHD.
They work by increasing the levels of neurotransmitters, including dopamine and norepinephrine, in your brain.
However, they may not suit everyone and some experience side effects.
Common stimulant options for ADHD include:
Nonstimulant medications are another option.
These drugs also affect the levels of neurotransmitters in the brain, but not the levels of dopamine.
They may be used alone or in combination with stimulant medication. For some people, they may be less effective than stimulant drugs.
Nonstimulant ADHD drug options include:
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Behavioral therapy is another popular option for those with ADHD, such as cognitive behavioral therapy.
Often, it involves teaching children and adults strategies to manage their symptoms.
This can include techniques for:
- staying organized
- time management
- controlling impulses
- coping with stress
- emotion management
ADHD is a neurodevelopmental disorder that can affect people of all ages. Many people take prescription medication to manage their symptoms.
Certain supplements have been studied for their potential to manage ADHD, but more research is needed to confirm their effectiveness. Behavioral therapy can also be an effective way to manage the condition.
If you are considering taking supplements for ADHD, speak with your doctor first to ensure it’s a safe and good fit.
- Agostoni C, et al. (2017). The role of omega-3 fatty acids in developmental psychopathology: A systematic review on early psychosis, autism, and ADHD. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5751211/
- Altun H, et al. (2018). Homocysteine, pyridoxine, folate and vitamin B12 levels in children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. https://www.psychiatria-danubina.com/UserDocsImages/pdf/dnb_vol30_no3/dnb_vol30_no3_310.pdf
- Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). (n.d.). https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/statistics/attention-deficit-hyperactivity-disorder-adhd
- Chang JP-C, et al. (2017). Omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids in youths with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder: A systematic review and meta-analysis of clinical trials and biological studies. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5669464/
- Data and statistics about ADHD. (2022). https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/adhd/data.html
- Effatpanah M, et al. (2019). Magnesium status and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD): A meta-analysis. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0165178118318456?via%3Dihub
- Hemamy M, et al. (2021). The effect of vitamin D and magnesium supplementation on the mental health status of attention-deficit hyperactive children: A randomized controlled trial. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8052751/
- Landaas ET, et al. (2016). Vitamin levels in adults with ADHD. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5153567/
- Leffa DT, et al. (2022). ADHD in children and adults: Diagnosis and prognosis. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/35397064/
- Pivina L, et al. (2019). Iron deficiency, cognitive functions, and neurobehavioral disorders in children. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30778834/
- Tseng PT, et al. (2018). Peripheral iron levels in children with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder: A systematic review and meta-analysis. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5768671/