Micronutrient Treatment for Adult ADHD

Summary and Comment |
March 6, 2014

Micronutrient Treatment for Adult ADHD

  1. Peter Roy-Byrne, MD

A vitamin and mineral formula moderately improved symptoms, though clinician-rated effects were less consistent than patient-rated effects.

  1. Peter Roy-Byrne, MD

Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in adults is disabling and can be difficult to treat. Specific medications are effective, but concerns about adverse effects have led to a growing interest in alternative-medicine approaches. Now, investigators in New Zealand have conducted a randomized, double-blind, controlled trial of a dietary intervention in 80 adults with rigorously diagnosed ADHD.

Participants received a manufacturer-supplied micronutrient formula containing all vitamins (except K) and 16 minerals (at 2–400 times the recommended daily allowance) or placebo for 8 weeks. Some individuals had comorbid depression or anxiety, but none were receiving psychiatric medication.

The formula was associated with significantly better self- and observer ratings, with medium-to-large effect sizes. On clinician ratings, only global functioning was improved. Significantly more micronutrient recipients than placebo recipients responded on at least one self- or observer-rated subscale (≥30% improvement in symptoms; 64% vs. 37%). A structured assessment of psychosocial functioning showed no change. Adverse events were negligible. Almost two thirds of patients in each group thought that they were receiving placebo.


This well-designed study showed a definitive signal of improvement in ADHD symptoms with the nutritional formula. Clinicians' limited exposure to a broad range of patient behaviors may account for their failure to notice the improvements seen by participants and observers. Limited functional effects may indicate only partial improvement, with problematic symptoms remaining (as also occurs with medication). This formula contained many substances (methylfolate, vitamin B6, niacin) known to affect monoamine neurotransmission, but the large number of substances limits investigation of the mechanism of action. Although derived from a single study and lacking information on the formula's long-term safety, these findings could justify a brief trial with the well-tolerated formula.

Editor Disclosures at Time of Publication

  • Disclosures for Peter Roy-Byrne, MD at time of publication Equity Valant Medical Solutions Grant / research support NIH-NIDA; NIH-NIMH Editorial boards Depression and Anxiety; UpToDate Leadership positions in professional societies Anxiety Disorders Association of America (Ex-Officio Board Member); Washington State Psychiatric Society (Treasurer)


Reader Comments (1)

Don Weissman, MD Physician, Other, malibu, beverky hills, palo alto

this article / abstract is essentially meaningless - non clinical and sounds like hype from the supplement sponsored industry
Information on what the mineral and vitamins were and strengths-dose were missing as were any pre and post testing

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