The results from a University of Canterbury (UC) study into the longer term effects of micronutrients on ADHD symptoms
in children have been published in the Journal of Child and Adolescent Psychopharmacology.
The UC researchers aimed to determine the long-term effects of a broad-spectrum micronutrient (vitamins and minerals)
in attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) treatment.
“Eighty-four of the 93 children who entered a 10-week randomised controlled trial completed follow-up assessments after
12 months. This allowed us to gather valuable information about what happens when people choose to stay on or come off
the micronutrient treatment,” says UC Psychology PhD candidate Kathryn Darling, who successfully defended her PhD thesis
based on the research recently.
This follow-up study built on the findings from the first part of the trial (the randomised, double-blind,
placebo-controlled trial or RCT phase) that took place between 2014 and 2017.
“It showed that children who benefit in the short term from taking a broad-spectrum vitamin/mineral formula maintain
those benefits or continue to improve when they keep taking it longer term, without side effects,” says Professor Julia Rucklidge
, Kathryn’s supervisor and Director of the Mental Health Nutrition research lab.
“Continued micronutrient treatment was associated with improvements in ADHD symptoms which were similar to, or greater
than, those associated with stimulant medication. Unlike stimulant medications, micronutrients were associated with
improvements, rather than worsening, in mood and anxiety. This indicates that micronutrients can be a serious treatment
option for those who choose not to take medications. Micronutrients may be especially helpful for children with ADHD who
also have difficulties with mood or anxiety.”
Some of the key findings from this research:
• Children who benefitted from micronutrients during the open-label phase were more likely to continue taking them after
completing the trial.
• The most common reasons people stopped taking micronutrients were the cost and number of pills to swallow.
• Those who continued to take micronutrients did not have any ongoing side effects.
• Children who continued to take micronutrients and children who changed to medications (like
methylphenidate/Ritalin/Concerta) either stayed well or continued to improve ADHD symptoms at 12-month follow-up
assessment, while those who stopped treatment altogether did not.
• However, children who changed to medications like
methylphenidate/Ritalin were more likely to have problems with mood or anxiety at the 12-month follow-up assessment,
which were worse than at the end of the trial. After the end of the trial, mood and anxiety symptoms had generally
continued to improve for the children who stayed on micronutrients, and mostly stayed the same for those who stopped
This work received financial support from the Vic Davis Memorial Trust, the UC Foundation, the GAMA Foundation, a PhD
scholarship from Gravida and a private grant from Dr Margaret Bailey to support Kathryn Darling, and ongoing research
support from the University of Canterbury. This study is limited due to its naturalistic observational status but allows
us to evaluate effectiveness in the real world. No funds were received from the manufacturer of the micronutrients.