New trial proves micronutrients effective for childhood ADHD

03 October 2017

New Zealand researchers have shown that vitamin-mineral treatment improves aggression and emotional regulation in children with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), in the first published results from a new trial.

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    University of Canterbury clinical psychologist Professor Julia Rucklidge says the study’s results show that a simple intervention for children with ADHD could improve the quality of life of families as well as behavioural problems at school.

New Zealand researchers have shown that vitamin-mineral treatment improves aggression and emotional regulation in children with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), in the first published results from a new trial.

A new paper on the first study to come out of the large, placebo-controlled trial has been published in the Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry this month.

This is the first fully blinded, randomised, controlled trial of medication-free children (ages seven to 12 years) with ADHD, assigned to either micronutrients or a placebo for 10 weeks. Evaluation of broad-spectrum micronutrient (vitamins and minerals) treatment for childhood ADHD has previously been limited to open-label studies that highlight beneficial effects across many aspects of psychological functioning.

Led by award-winning University of Canterbury clinical psychologist Professor Julia Rucklidge, the team includes researchers from UC’s Department of Psychology, the Canterbury District Health Board, Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at Oregon Health & Science University, United States, and the University of Otago’s Department of Psychological Medicine in Christchurch.

Professor Rucklidge says the study’s results show that a simple intervention for children with ADHD could improve the quality of life of families as well as behavioural problems at school.

“Irritable, angry and moody children can be extremely difficult to parent. Our research has shown that nutrients can reduce the intensity and frequency of these problems in children with ADHD,” she says.

Based on clinician, parent and teacher report, those children on micronutrients showed greater improvements in emotional regulation, aggression and general functioning compared to the placebo.                                

“While the children still displayed some hyperactivity and impulsivity on micronutrients, they were less anxious, slept better, their appetites were not suppressed, and their attention improved,” Professor Rucklidge says. 

“It’s an intervention that addresses debilitating symptoms in children that often lead to poor long-term outcomes for them.”

Pharmacological treatments can reduce ADHD symptoms, but can be unsatisfactory due to side effects, failure to prevent or alter long-term course and discontinuance due to patient and family preferences, according to the paper’s authors.

About ADHD

Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a chronic neurodevelopmental disorder affecting about 5% of children (American Psychiatric Association, 2013). The disorder conveys a risk for school failure, occupational problems, substance addiction, incarceration and ongoing psychiatric problems in adulthood, despite receiving treatments. 

For further information please contact:

Margaret Agnew, Senior External Relations Advisor, University of Canterbury
Phone: +64 3 369 3631 | Mobile: +64 275 030 168margaret.agnew@canterbury.ac.nz
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