Evaluation of broad-spectrum micronutrient (vitamins and minerals) treatment for childhood ADHD has been limited to open-label studies that highlight beneficial effects across many aspects of psychological functioning.
This is the first fully blinded randomized controlled trial of medication-free children (n = 93) with ADHD (7-12 years) assigned to either micronutrients (n = 47) or placebo (n = 46) in a 1:1 ratio, for 10 weeks. All children received standardized ADHD assessments. Data were collected from clinicians, parents, participants and teachers across a range of measures assessing ADHD symptoms, general functioning and impairment, mood, aggression and emotional regulation.
Intent-to-treat analyses showed significant between-group differences favouring micronutrient treatment on the Clinical Global Impression-Improvement (ES = 0.46), with 47% of those on micronutrients identified as 'much' to 'very much' improved versus 28% on placebo. No group differences were identified on clinician, parent and teacher ratings of overall ADHD symptoms (ES ranged 0.03-0.17). However, according to clinicians, 32% of those on micronutrients versus 9% of those on placebo showed a clinically meaningful improvement on inattentive (OR = 4.9; 95% CI: 1.5-16.3), but no group differences on improvement in hyperactive-impulsive symptoms (OR = 1.0; 95% CI: 0.4-2.5). Based on clinician, parent and teacher report, those on micronutrients showed greater improvements in emotional regulation, aggression and general functioning compared to placebo (ES ranged 0.35-0.66). There were two dropouts per group, no group differences in adverse events and no serious adverse events identified. Blinding was successful with guessing no better than chance.
Micronutrients improved overall function, reduced impairment and improved inattention, emotional regulation and aggression, but not hyperactive/impulsive symptoms, in this sample of children with ADHD. Although direct benefit for core ADHD symptoms was modest, with mixed findings across raters, the low rate of adverse effects and the benefits reported across multiple areas of functioning indicate micronutrients may be a favourable option for some children, particularly those with both ADHD and emotional dysregulation. Trial registered with the Australian New Zealand Clinical Trials Registry ACTRN12613000896774.
Vitamin-mineral treatment improves aggression and emotional regulation in children with ADHD: a fully blinded, randomized, placebo-controlled trial.
Rucklidge JJ, Eggleston MJF, Johnstone JM, Darling K, Frampton CM. J Child Psychol Psychiatry. 2017 Oct 2.
Vitamin–mineral treatment of attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder in adults: double-blind randomised placebo-controlled trial.
Rucklidge JJ, Frampton CMA, Gorman B, Boggis A. The British Journal of Psychiatry. 2014 Feb;204(2): doi: 10.1192/bjp.bp.113.132126 [Epub ahead of print]
Post-earthquake psychological functioning in adults with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder: positive effects of micronutrients on resilience.
Rucklidge JJ, Blampied, NM. New Zealand Journal of Psychology. 2011;40(4):51.
Database analysis of children and adolescents with bipolar disorder consuming a micronutrient formula.
Rucklidge JJ, Gately D, Kaplan BJ. BioMed Central Psychiatry. 2010 Sep 28;10:74.
Effect of micronutrients on behavior and mood in adults with ADHD: evidence from an 8-week open label trial with natural extension.
Rucklidge J, Taylor M, Whitehead K. Journal of Attention Disorders. 2011 Jan;15(1):79-91.
Effective mood stabilization with a chelated mineral supplement: an open-label trial in bipolar disorder.
Kaplan BJ, Simpson JS, Ferre RC, Gorman CP, McMullen DM, Crawford SG. The Journal of Clinical Psychiatry. 2001 Dec;62(12):936-44.
Improved mood and behavior during treatment with a mineral-vitamin supplement: an open-label case series of children.
Kaplan BJ, Fisher JE, Crawford SG, Field CJ, Kolb B. Journal of Child and Adolescent Psychopharmacology. 2004 Spring;14(1):115-22.
Successful treatment of bipolar disorder II and ADHD with a micronutrient formula: a case study.
Rucklidge JJ, Harrison R. CNS Spectrums. 2010 May;15(5):289-95.
Treatment of mood lability and explosive rage with minerals and vitamins: two case studies in children.
Kaplan BJ, Crawford SG, Gardner B, Farrelly G. Journal of Child and Adolescent Psychopharmacology. 2002 Fall;12(3):205-19.
Feasibility of a nutritional supplement as treatment for pediatric bipolar spectrum disorders.
Frazier EA, Fristad MA, Arnold LE. Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine. 2012 Jul;18(7):678-85.
Can micronutrients improve neurocognitive functioning in adults with ADHD and severe mood dysregulation? A pilot study.
Rucklidge JJ, Harrison R, Johnstone J. Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine. 2011 Dec;17(12):1125-31.
Could yeast infections impair recovery from mental illness? A case study using micronutrients and olive leaf extract for the treatment of ADHD and depression.
Rucklidge JJ. Advances in Mind-Body Medicine. 2013 Summer;27(3):14-8.
Use of micronutrients attenuates cannabis and nicotine abuse as evidenced from a reversal design: a case study.
Harrison R, Rucklidge JJ, Blampied N. Journal of Psychoactive Drugs. 2013 Jun;45(2):168-178.
Dr. Julia Rucklidge conducted nutrient assays on study participants in her 8 week double-blind RCT using micronutrient treatment for adult ADHD. Using this extensive data set, she performed a post-hoc analysis of the original study in an attempt to determine if blood levels of nutrients in adult ADHD patients could be used to predict whether or not they would respond to micronutrient treatment. The blood markers measured were Vitamin D, Vitamin B12, Folate, Iron, Zinc, Copper, and Ferritin.
With the exception of Vitamin d (27% of participants deficient), nutrient deficiencies were slight or non-existent for the majority of participants at the beginning of the trial. In spite of the fact that only one participant exhibited iron deficiency, low iron levels were associated with higher baseline depression scores (p=0.009). No other nutrient significantly correlated with baseline psychiatric scores.
Throughout the course of the trial, micronutrient treatment was associated with significant increases in blood Vitamin D, Vitamin B12, and Folate (all p<0.001), but only Vitamin D was also identified as one of the nutrient markers that showed a statistically significant effect on treatment response.
The nutrient markers affecting treatment response were: ferritin, vitamin D, and copper. Greater ferritin at baseline correlated with being an ADHD responder (p=0.027). (ADHD response was defined as ≥30% decrease in symptom scores for a comprehensive combination of outcome measures. Of the 64 original study participants with complete nutrient assays, 39 (60.9%) were identified as ADHD responders.) Lower baseline vitamin D was predictive of greater improvements in depression (p=0.011) and global functioning (p=0.045) scores, and lower baseline copper levels predicted greater response in the depression (p=0.002) and clinical global improvement (p=0.007) outcome measures.
From among the non-nutrient variables measured, the researchers identified developmental history as the only noticeable predictor of response. This means that people with a history of developmental risk factors (e.g., slow to talk, walk, read, toilet train) may benefit even more from micronutrient treatment than those who developed normally as a child. It is also worth noting that several participants who reported alcohol or drug use at baseline later reported a reduction or cessation of these behaviours during micronutrient treatment, suggesting the possible value of nutrients in addiction therapy.Only a few significant associations were identified between baseline biomarkers and outcomes, but, despite the difficulty in predicting the outcome for any given person, micronutrient treatment proved very effective – providing substantial ADHD symptom reduction for over half of the adults in this study.
Moderators of treatment response in adults with ADHD treated with a vitamin-mineral supplement
Rucklidge JJ, Johnstone J, Gorman B, Boggis A, Frampton CM. Prog Neuropsychopharmacol Biol Psychiatry. 2014 Apr 3;50:163-71. doi:10.1016/j.pnpbp.2013.12.014. Epub 2013 Dec 26. PubMed PMID: 24374068.
The role of good nutrition for resilience in the face of stress is a topic of interest, but difficult to study. A 7.1 earthquake took place in the midst of research on a micronutrient treatment for Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), providing a unique opportunity to examine whether individuals with ADHD taking micronutrients demonstrated more emotional resilience post-earthquake than individuals with ADHD not taking micronutrients. Thirty-three adults with ADHD were assessed twice following the earthquake using a measure of depression, anxiety and stress also completed at some point pre-earthquake (baseline). Seventeen were not taking micronutrients at the time of the earthquake (control group), 16 were (micronutrient group). While there were no between-group differences one week post-quake (Time 1), at two weeks post-quake (Time 2), the micronutrient group reported significantly less anxiety and stress than the controls (effect size 0.69). These between group differences could not be explained by other variables, such as pre-earthquake measures of emotions, demographics, psychiatric status, and personal loss or damage following the earthquake. The results suggest micronutrients may increase resilience to ongoing stress and anxiety associated with a highly stressful event in individuals with ADHD and are consistent with controlled studies showing benefit of micronutrients for mental health.
Micronutrients reduce stress and anxiety following a 7.1 earthquake in adults with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder
Rucklidge JJ, Johnstone J, Harrison R, Boggis A. 2011. Psychiatry Research, 189:281-87.
In January 2014, The British Journal of Psychiatry published the results of a double-blind controlled trial which provided evidence of efficacy for micronutrients† (vitamins and minerals) in the treatment of ADHD symptoms in adults, with a reassuring safety profile.
As a follow-up to the adult trial, and pilot study for a RCT in childhood ADHD, the Journal of Child and Adolescent Psychopharmacology recently published the results of a study which treated 14 children with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) using micronutrients† instead of medication.
The study demonstrated the clinical benefit, feasibility, and safety of broad-spectrum micronutrients in the treatment of childhood ADHD.
In the recently published study, medication-free children were treated with a micronutrient formula† for eight weeks and then taken off it for four weeks—with the on-off cycle repeating itself over a six-month period.
Modified Brinley plots revealed a reduction in ADHD symptoms, improved mood, and improved overall functioning during intervention phases, and deterioration in ADHD symptoms, mood, and overall functioning during the withdrawal phases. Reliable change analyses, Cohen's d and percent superiority effect sizes, 95% confidence intervals and t tests confirmed clinically and statistically significant change between the intervention and withdrawal phases, with large effect sizes observed pre- to post-exposure of micronutrients (d = 1.2–2.2) on ADHD symptoms during intervention phases. Seventy-one percent of participants showed at least a 30% decrease in ADHD symptoms by the end of the second treatment phase, and 79% were identified as “much improved” or “very much improved” at the end of the second phase (5 months) based on the clinician-rated CGI when considering functioning generally. The SDQ showed that these benefits occurred across other areas of functioning including emotional symptoms, conduct problems, and prosocial behaviours. The children's self-reports confirmed the improvements. Excellent adherence to treatment occurred throughout, side effects were mild and transitory, and no safety issues were identified through blood analyses.The researchers said the results were so effective that some parents were reluctant to take their children off the micronutrients† for the full four weeks. They noted “When they came off the micronutrients†, some children’s symptoms returned within days, which was a good indication of their effectiveness.”
Clinically Significant Symptom Reduction in Children with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder Treated with Micronutrients: An Open-Label Reversal Design Study
Gordon HA, Rucklidge JJ, Blampied NM, Johnstone JM. J Child Adolesc Psychopharmacol. 2015 Dec;25(10):783-98. doi: 10.1089/cap.2015.0105. PubMed PMID: 26682999; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC4702182.
†The micronutrient formulation studied was a pre-2013 version of Truehope EMPowerplus which was co-formulated by David Hardy and Anthony Stephan. Truehope EMPowerplus is a registered trademark of The Synergy Group of Canada Inc., which was co-founded by David Hardy and Anthony Stephan in 1999. David Hardy officially resigned as a shareholder of The Synergy Group of Canada Inc. and director of Truehope Nutritional Support Ltd. in 2013 to focus his efforts exclusively on Hardy Nutritionals®.