Sunday, April 12, 2009

10 Ways Zinc can Combat ADHD

Here are 10 reasons why zinc may be an effective treatment method for ADHD and related disorders:

  1. Protection against oxidative damage of omega-3 fatty acids: We've previously discussed the role of omega-3's and their use as a treatment option for ADHD. However, the downside to this is that these fats (along with many others) are prone to oxidation. As a result, dietary antioxidants are needed to preserve these effects. According to a work by Villet and coworkers, zinc may be beneficial in retarding this omega-3 fatty acid oxidation process. As a result, zinc may be a good supplement to go alongside omega-3 treatment for ADHD.

  2. Conversion of Vitamin B6 to its active form: We have mentioned the role of vitamin B6 and its role in the treatment of ADHD, including how B6 can work alongside another key nutrient, magnesium. Zinc is needed to convert the inactive form of the vitamin B6, pyridoxine, to the active form pyridoxal phosphate. Thus, zinc is needed in vitamin B6 metabolism.

  3. Production of melatonin: Melatonin is a hormone we have also discussed earlier with regards to its effects on ADHD in an earlier post titled CREM gene, melatonin and ADHD. It appears that melatonin deficiencies may be attributed to a shortage of zinc. In short, melatonin plays a role in regulating the important neuro-chemical signaling agent dopamine, which is a key neurotransmitter involved in the symptoms and treatment strategies for ADHD.

  4. Zinc can modulate or affect thyroid function, especially when melatonin is a factor: We have also discussed how thyroid dysfunction may closely mimic ADHD symptoms, and highlighted the importance of iodine to combat this . Now it appears that imbalanced melatonin levels may disrupt the thyroid. However, zinc may combat the negative effects of excessive melatonin on thyroid function. Combining this point with the previous one, we now see that zinc may be needed not only for the production of melatonin, but can actually be used to reel in this hormone when excessive melatonin levels lead to unwanted side effects such as thyroid dysfunction. Thus, it appears that zinc may play a role of double duty with regards to regulating melatonin production and curbing the negative effects of its excess.

  5. Production of serotonin: This piggy-backs on the vitamin B6 role highlighted in point number 2 above. ADHD is often considered a disorder associated with the neurochemicals dopamine and norepinephrine. However, serotonin may also play a role in this disorder. For individuals who exhibit anxiety and depressive symptoms alongside their ADHD (which is surprisingly common), a serotonin deficiency is often partly to blame. Serotonin is synthesized in the body from the amino acid tryptophan. However, for this conversion process to go through, sufficient and functional vitamin B6 is required for serotonin to be formed by the tryptophan conversion process via a special type of enzyme known as aromatic amino acid decarboxylase. As previously mentioned, zinc is needed for functional vitamin B6, and therefore plays an indirect role in the synthesis of serotonin. Thus, zinc may be extremely important in individuals with ADHD and comorbid (co-occurring) depression or depressive-like symptoms.

  6. Reduction of hyperactivty, impulsivity and antisocial behavioral symptoms: For direct treatment of ADHD, it appears that zinc may be more effective in treating the hyperactive/impulsive aspects of the disorder than the inattentive portion of the disorder. This study also noted the effectiveness of zinc for older children and children with a higher body mass index, which at least suggests that the effectiveness of zinc as a treatment for children with ADHD may increase as the child ages and grows.

  7. Zinc may also play a role in the process of brain waves associated with ADHD as well as other disorders: We have already investigated differences and discrepancies in the brain wave patterns of ADHD children, including how these may actually be tied to an individual's genes. Information processing, which is often impaired in ADHD individuals, is believed to be tied to a brain pattern known as N2 (which is short for second negative wave, no need to concern ourselves with the exact details of this process here). Some research suggests that N2 mediated information processing may be negatively affected by zinc deficiency. This relates to unwanted attentional shifting (i.e. distraction) to irrelevant stimuli. In other words, N2 is related to the "novelty effect" of a specific stimulus or change in stimuli. As an interesting aside, N2 brain patterns are thought to be affected by serotonin, which, as mentioned in point #5, is indirectly tied to zinc levels. Based on this, it is at least plausible that zinc may play an integral role in this mechanism of distraction.

  8. Boosting the effectiveness of ADHD medications: While we have reported on this in an earlier post on zinc and Ritalin, I believe it is worth repeating here. Multiple studies suggest that zinc can boost the effectiveness of methylphenidate for treating ADHD and related disorders. This may be of importance with regards to reducing some of the negative side effects associated with the drug. Many of these negative side effects often don't set in at the lower doses of the various forms of the drug, but instead, begin to appear with greater frequencies at higher doses. Taking this into account, it seems reasonable (at least in this blogger's opinion) that concurrent treatment with zinc may be enough to hold some of these methylphenidate dosages below the threshold of some of these negative symptoms, thereby increasing the tolerability of this common ADHD drug.

  9. Zinc Inhibition of the Dopamine Transporter Protein: This may offer a further explanation as to why zinc is effective in boosting the effectiveness of methylphenidate. We have spoken extensively about the dopamine transporter (DAT) protein and its effects on dopamine levels and ADHD. Several ADHD medications, especially of the stimulant variety (such as methylphenidate), work by inhibiting or blocking DAT. It appears zinc may also act as a natural DAT inhibitor, thereby mimicking the effects of some of the more commonly used drugs.

    In my previous post on zinc and its amplification of Ritalin's effectiveness, I wondered aloud as to whether zinc could be used as an outright substitute for the medication methylphenidate. While still a personal hypothesis, I still believe that for low level doses, zinc may be an ample natural alternative, but, this hypothesis obviously needs to be tested at a clinical level. Nevertheless, I personally believe it to be worthy of investigation.

  10. Zinc as a possible treatment option for juvenile growth impairments: It is suggested that children with ADHD exhibit a delay in the overall growth process. We actually discussed this very topic in an earlier post titled: Do ADHD stimulant drugs stunt growth? Now it appears that zinc may possibly play a role in this. Using a primate model of zinc deficiency, Golub and coworkers found that zinc deficient monkeys showed a slowing of the growth process during what would normally be a period of growth spurt. If this translates into humans, then it is possible that underlying growth and attentional impairments, as well as abnormalities in activity levels (which is sometimes evident in children with ADHD, often more alongside those with the inattentive subtype of the disorder), may actually be due to zinc deficiencies.

    Perhaps on an even more interesting note, the study found that "attention performance was also impaired before the onset of growth retardation". In other words, an attentional deficit may serve as a proverbial canary in the coal mine that a child may suffer from a subsequent delinquency in growth in the upcoming years. As a result, this blogger personally believes that some of these "attentional deficits" may not simply indicate an isolated case of ADHD, but rather serve as a warning of a much larger underlying problem that may be tied to a nutritional deficiency. Furthermore, it is at least possible that the underlying problem of attentional deficits and growth impairments in children with ADHD may be remedied by an intervention strategy that involves adequate dietary zinc or treatment via zinc supplementation.
This list of zinc levels and the direct or indirect relationships to ADHD is by no means extensive. Further connections, such as the relationship between zinc deficiencies and digestive disorders such as Crohn's disease, should also be noted. On an interesting note, a very recent publication came out evaluating the effectiveness of various nutrition supplementation strategies for treatment of ADHD listed zinc as the nutrient of most promise.

Given that zinc deficiencies are common in both Western countries such as the U.K., as well as developing countries such as China it seems evident that ADHD symptoms may be part of a larger picture, a proverbial cry for help due to a widespread nutritional deficiency. In addition to ADHD, other disorders dealing with cognitive development may be susceptible to zinc deficiencies. Of course, a great deal of further study is needed to back up this assertion, but it leads us to wonder exactly how often a case of ADHD is actually due to something as simple as a deficiency in zinc or another common nutrient. We will have further discussions regarding this important mineral in future posts.

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Anonymous said...

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The Lane Gang said...

Do you know what the optimal dosage is? My boys are 9 and 12. The store sold me 450mg tablets, but now I'm reading elsewhere that may be way too much. Looks like it should be 23mg-40mg. What have you found about the dosing? Thank you.

Anonymous said...

I think the recommended dose for children is not more than 20 or 30 mg per day. And zince should be taken seperate to iron, about 8 hrs. Hope this helps.

Devin T. said...

Zinc also modulates down the effectiveness of GABA-A receptor while inhibiting NMDA receptors. GABA-A is responsible for inducing lethargy and low-anxiety from releasing Chlorine into the nerve channels. NMDA is responsible for exciting the cell, releasing Calcium into the nerve channels. Thus, zinc actually reduces lethargy and excitability at the same time, both ADHD symptoms. Your nerves basically can keep their chlorine and their calcium, which as an added benefit, is neuroprotective.

Devin T. said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

Lol it's "choline" not "chlorine." chlorine is used in swimming pools and as an insecticide. If your brain produced it, you would die.

Anonymous said...

IF you are giving your boys Zinc - please look up how it affects copper in the body. It can be a negative effect where you should counter by taking zinc/copper 10/1 or 10/2 ratio.

PLEASE look it up before you give your boys zinc!!!!

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Anonymous said...

The only points here that are well grounded here are the point about B6 and the actual study of zinc's efficacy. Frankly, the rest is gross speculation at best and pseudoscience at worst. You rely on very dubious links between disparate neurochemical systems to establish zinc's potential efficacy, the two ironies being that a) a lot of the systems that you say zinc will positively affect and thus aid ADHD actually do very little to help with ADHD symptoms, e.g. serotonin, and b) the entire discussion is made pointless by the fact that zinc's efficacy has already been investigated and found to be small, though significant.

Anonymous said...

Also, to set the record straight, Devin T. was actually right that GABA-A when activated allows chlorine into the nerve terminal, not choline, which as far as the established function of GABA-AR goes would do diddly squat.

Honestly, most of you would be better off finding a good doctor and asking him/her about this stuff...

James Napier said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
James Napier said...

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danielthomas said...

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder has many manifestations and there are more than five kinds of ADHD. It is a medical condition that is carried in the genes, resulting in certain disorders in the nervous system.

Anonymous said...

I think it's important to note that new evidence is pointing to the increasing importance of the serotogenic (serotonin related) system in adhd. Remember, adhd rarely exists in a vacuum, and comorbid symptoms such as depression, mood disorders and sleep disorders often accompany adhd. I agree that a lot of the benefits listed above are hypothetical or speculative, but it would also be a mistake to compartmentalize the different brain systems into neat little packages as opposed to the fact that the different systems share components and pathways and spill over into each other. As we all know, the brain is incredibly complex and has numerous checks and balances with regard to feedback. No, simply popping a zinc tablet now and then won't "cure" adhd and related disorders, but I firmly believe that the vast importance of this mineral with regards to the numerous enzyme systems dependent on it deserve a closer look.

Brett Maas said...

Thanks for all the info! I've been taking this ZMA and I'm actually a lot more focused throughout my day and its awesome because I have a pretty bad case of ADHD.

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Thank you.

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Anonymous said...

I have a step-son who struggles with ADHD and the anxiety/depression/impulse control that comes with it. We use Seeking Health's 5htp 200 mg sustained release (serotonin support) and Tyrosine 500 mg (dopamine support), GABA Plus by TwinLabs (calming effects and sleep assistance; it has inositol in it which is why it works better than other GABA sources), and NAC 600 mg sustained release (impulse control).

Though the NAC helped and he noticed a significant change, we were still having impulse control issues. So we were began attempting to address with Zinc and Iron. (each of these in -ate forms, citrate/sulfate and bisglycinate chelate respectively; the type matters a great deal in terms of efficacy and side effects)

We tried 30 mg of zinc and 25 mg of iron. [I could only find the zinc at that dose and form in a multi from Life Extension called Two a Day at the time, which offers a bunch of co-factors needed for all of this to work well I decided to try it rather than hunt down an isolated form of zinc in an -ate form.

We saw a significant and noticeable difference in impulse control and focus/planning abilities within a week. We plan to up it to the therapeutic dose of 80 mg of iron (bisgylcinate chelate)if necessary, slowly over the coming weeks. We also, plan to slowly up the zinc dose to the 55 mg recommended therapeutic dose supported in the research though I will probably have to find another source other than the LEF multi-vitamin.

There is good research that supports that zinc/iron are deficient in ADHD people and that they work with the tyrosine to support dopamine in the body. Thanks for the blog post...great resource!