Micronutrients affect gut bacteria associated with ADHD

Children with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) who took micronutrients had lower levels of a bacteria linked to the psychological disorder, and a healthier range of bugs in their gut overall, new research shows.


A new study by scientists at the University of Canterbury’s Mental Health and Nutrition laboratory in collaboration with the University of Otago, Christchurch geneticists, suggests that micronutrient supplementation – which includes vitamins and minerals – could be a safe therapy for those with ADHD.

There is growing proof universally demonstrating the human gut microbiome, or gut bacteria, could have a role to play in the development of disorders, for example, depression, ADHD, and autism. A large recent global investigation discovered children with ADHD had significantly higher levels of the bifidobacterium bacteria in their gut than those without the condition.

In the study, scientists used the latest DNA technology and analyzed the gut bacteria of children given a specific range of micronutrients over ten weeks. However, the research was small- conducted on 17 children aged between seven and 12 participating. Ten children were given micronutrients, while the others were given placebo treatment.

Scientists found:

  • Taking micronutrients did not negatively affect the overall structure or composition of the microbiome.
  • Children taking micronutrients had significantly more Observed Taxonomic Units (OTUs), which is a positive measure of ‘richness’ in the microbiome community.
  • Children taking the micronutrients had significantly fewer bifidobacterium than other children.

Clinical psychologist Professor Julia Rucklidge, a lead author of the study, said, “The latest research is important in showing micronutrients can create some positive changes to the microbiome of children with ADHD in the study.”

“What scientists are now wondering is whether people who suffer from specific psychiatric symptoms, like those associated with ADHD, have a different bacterial composition than those who don’t have these symptoms and whether these differences can help us understand the severity of the symptoms.”

“More research is needed with larger groups of people with ADHD, and to understand the potential effect of diet, medications, age, ethnicity, and gender on the results that have been reported.”

“The pilot study of the effect of micronutrients on the microbiome follows a study of almost 100 children investigating the impact of vitamin-mineral treatment on aggression and emotional regulation in children with ADHD. That study found micronutrients improved overall function, reduced impairment and improved inattention, emotional regulation, and aggression in the child participants.”

The study is recently published in the journal Scientific Reports.

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