ADHD News & Research

New Research Points to Early B-Vitamin Therapy for ADHD Patients

We know that dietary supplements like B vitamins improve symptoms of ADHD in some patients. A new study suggests this may be true because people with ADHD have naturally lower levels of these key nutrients in their brains and bodies, and that early vitamin treatment may make a difference.

February 1, 2017

Some evidence suggests that certain vitamins — including B-vitamins — reduce the severity of ADHD symptoms in some individuals, but research on the causal link between B-vitamin levels and ADHD has been limited. Now, a new study finds that adults with ADHD may demonstrate lower levels of B-vitamins than their counterparts without ADHD — possibly explaining further the etiology of the neurodevelopmental disorder.

The study, published December 13 in the journal BJPsych, examined 133 patients diagnosed with ADHD — along with 131 control subjects — between the ages of 18 and 40. Each participant rated his or her ADHD symptoms (or lack thereof) using the Adult ADHD Self-report Scale (ASRS), and had blood drawn and analyzed for vitamin saturation.

The ADHD group was found to have significantly lower concentrations of B2, B6, and B9, three critical vitamins responsible for energy regulation and neurotransmitter synthesis. Lower levels of B2 and B6, in particular, were further associated with more severe ADHD symptoms — in other words, the lower their vitamin levels, the more extreme a patient’s self-reported symptoms of hyperactivity, impulsivity, and inattention. Interestingly, smokers — the majority of whom had ADHD — also had significantly lower concentrations of these critical B vitamins, leading researchers to wonder if smoking (a common self-medicating habit for adults with ADHD) had a confounding effect on B-vitamin levels in the blood.

It’s unclear whether ADHD causes these low levels of B vitamins, the authors write, or if poor nutritional habits may be to blame. But, they continue, “If the low vitamin levels in ADHD patients are caused by differences in uptake or metabolism because of genetic factors, the lower levels in adult ADHD patients might reflect a lower level also during childhood.” This means that “lower vitamin levels have influenced brain development at an earlier age,” they write.

If the link between B vitamins and the development of ADHD is further solidified — ideally with larger sample sizes, the researchers write — it could open up the path to new and better treatments for ADHD, particularly in children. “Nutritional supplements including vitamins have repeatedly been suggested as treatment for ADHD.” This study furthers the evidence that “identification and correction of low vitamin levels could be beneficial,” they conclude.