March 17, 2006
A majority of restless ADHD children were lacking in magnesium. All children improved when given magnesium and B6-vitamin supplements.
In almost all kindergarten classes there are one or two so-called ADHD-children giving the teacher a hard time with their continuous restlessness, running about, violent behaviour and inattentiveness. (ADHD stands for Attention Deficit, Hyperactivity Disorder).
Two studies – the only ones conducted – have now shown that a combination of magnesium and vitamin B6 helps.
Why should magnesium help? In a French study 52 children, all diagnosed with ADHD, were examined. The children were typically six years old. If the serum level of magnesium was measured in a normal blood test, normal values were seen. But since almost all magnesium in the body is found inside the cells, this says nothing. It is inside the cells that we must look.
On average, the children only had 4/5 of the amount of magnesium in the cells (in this case, the red blood cells) present in normal adults. They were deficient in magnesium!
Therefore they were given a daily supplement of 6 mg. of magnesium and 0.8 mg. Vitamin B6 per kilo body mass for one to six months. After this, no less than all the children got better. For example, at the beginning of the experiment 26 of the children were deemed physically aggressive. After four months, only six. At the same time their ability to concentrate and their attention span improved (evaluated in an approved manner). Statistically, these results were quite credible.
A weakness in the French study was that it was a so-called open study. There was no untreated control group and the treatment was not blind. This leaves room for coincidence and over-interpretation. On the other hand, the study showed exactly the same as a similar study from 1997. Also, the improvements occurred at the same time as the measurable magnesium deficiency disappeared. When this had happened, treatment was stopped.
Magnesium in the Diet
If it works, it may not be that surprising. The same course of treatment seems to have helped women suffering from irritability and imbalance due to PMS (PreMenstrual Syndrome) in several studies. On top of this comes the generally sedative effect on nerves (magnesium can be used as a local anaesthetic). Magnesium has a relaxing effect on muscles. Does magnesium also have a calming effect on the central nervous system?
Another question is why ADHD-children apparently are deficient in magnesium. The French suggest that genetic factors play a role, but in a majority of the parents, it was not just one, but both of them who were deficient in the mineral. This suggests that nutrition is more important.
A British evaluation indicates that foodstuffs’ content of magnesium has decreased in the past 60 years. It is estimated that today there is 24 and 16 percent less magnesium in vegetables and fruit, respectively, than in 1940. On top of this is an increase in the consumption of sugar. Those who dauntlessly claim that 10 percent of the calories in the diet can be contributed by sugar, are also saying that you can easily omit 10 percent of the diet’s magnesium. Furthermore, less physical work means a decreased need for food generally, thereby decreasing the amount of magnesium we consume. A typical magnesium consumption rate today (3-400 mg. a day) is probably half of what it was 100 years ago.
Something else to consider also is that there is a row of more or less confirmed observations of connections between behavioural disorders in children and teenagers (and criminals) and an unhealthy diet. Is this purely coincidence?
It will take several months to rectify a magnesium deficiency, but it might be worth it to try.
By: Vitality Council
1. Mousain-Bosc et al. Magnesium VitB6 intake reduces central nervous system hyperexcitability in children. J Am Coll Nutrition 2004;23:545S-548S
2. Starobrat-Hermelin et al. The effects of magnesium physiological supplementation on hyperactivity in children with attention deficit hyperactive disorder (ADHD). Magnes Res 1997;10:143-8