Could iron supplements help ADHD?

Supplementing with iron may benefit children with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), say researchers from the European Pediatric Hospital in Paris, who found a link between ADHD and iron deficiency. Iron is an essential mineral used to transport oxygen to all cells and tissues and is involved in the metabolism of brain chemicals, specifically the ones needed to help regulate attention span.

In this study, 53 children with ADHD (aged 4 to 14 years) and 27 controls underwent evaluation; their iron levels were measured and their parents rated the intensity of their ADHD symptoms. The researchers found 84% of children with ADHD had lower iron levels compared to only 18% of children in the control group. In addition, low iron levels were associated with more severe ADHD symptoms and cognitive problems.

These results mirror the results from a 1997 study out of Tel Aviv University in Israel. In this study, 14 non-anemic boys aged 7 to 11 years of age, each with ADHD, were evaluated for their iron levels and the effect of short-term (30-day) iron supplementation. Blood samples were taken, and their parents and teachers rated the severity of their ADHD symptoms both before and after supplementation. The results of these tests showed a significant increase in iron levels and a significant decrease on the parents’ scores for their child’s ADHD behaviour.

Sources: Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 2004;158:1113-1115; Neuropsychobiology. 1997;35(4):178-80