ADHD – good blog explores causes, symptoms, various treatments

ADHD treatments
This blog is all about the exploration of ADHD! We will investigate the
causes, symptoms and conventional (as well as unconventional) treatments for
ADHD.

ADHD and
Vitamin D Deficiency: Any Evidence?
Is there any link between vitamin D levels and ADHD? A review of the current
evidence:

We have spent a lot of time looking at correlations between vitamins,
minerals, omega-3 fatty acids and amino acids (and their deficiencies) and
ADHD. However, it is important to note that just because low levels of a
particular nutrient are seen alongside the disorder, it does not necessarily
mean that this deficiency is the cause of ADHD (i.e. correlation does not
imply causation). In other words, the nutrient deficiency and ADHD symptoms
might both be secondary effects of a larger primary cause, such as an enzyme
deficiency or metabolic dysfunction.

In the case of vitamin D, the association with ADHD is a lot more muddled
than with some of the other nutrients which have a relatively strong
connection with the disorder (iron, zinc, magnesium, and omega-3 fatty acids
to name a few). The amount of information in the literature is relatively
scarce, as well. A search in the journal database
Pubmed (where this blogger gets most of
his articles and information) for “ADHD” and “vitamin D” turns up only a
small handful of search results, the majority of which focus on other
disorders and only mention ADHD peripherally.

However, given the fact that vitamin D is such a “hot” vitamin and has been
a popular supplement as of late, we should investigate some of its potential
benefits with regard to ADHD and related disorders. Please keep in mind that
many of these points below are more theoretical or speculative, because most
of the hard, concrete evidence in well-documented clinical controlled
studies simply does not exist at the moment. Nevertheless, here are some
possible ways in which vitamin D may help in cases of ADHD or related
disorders:
* Vitamin D can boost levels of the
antioxidant glutathione in the
brain. One way that vitamin D does this is by regulating an enzyme called
gamma-glutamyl transpeptidase,
which plays a role in both the metabolism and recycling of glutathione. We
have spoken at length about how antioxidant deficits can worsen ADHD
symtpoms, and how fatty acids (namely
omega-3’s) are frequently administered for ADHD and
related disorders. Given the high makeup of these omega-3 fatty acids in the
brain, and their
susceptibility to oxidation and damage in the central
nervous system, protecting them by boosting antioxidant levels (either
directly or indirectly) is a good bet.
* One of the current theories surrounding ADHD is that it is (at least
partially) an energy
deficiency syndrome, or is the result of impaired metabolic abilities in key
regions of the central nervous system. While highly debatable, this theory
holds that impaired glucose metabolism in various parts of the brain may be
a major contributing factor to the presence or severity of this disorder.

While this blogger is currently neutral on this deficiency theory, it is
interesting to note that vitamin D can help regulate glucose tranport into
the brain, which would (at least in theory) improve this possible cause of
the disorder. It is believed that
vitamin D works by targeting
multiple enzymes involved in glucose transport and metabolism. Much more
study needs to be done to confirm this assertion, but this may be another
potential benefit of boosting vitamin D levels in the ADHD patient.
* Vitamin D may play a
role in catecholamine synthesis. Catecholamines include the
neurotransmitters dopamine and norepinephrine, both of which are believed to
be tightly regulated and highly involved in the treatment of ADHD
(deficiencies of both dopamine and norepinephrine in the “gaps” between
neuronal cells are often seen in cases of ADHD).
* Vitamin D boosts the
effects of an enzyme called choline acetyltransferase in the mammalian
brain. This enzyme is used in the manufacture of another neurotransmitting
agent called acetylcholine. Acetylcholine is thought to play a major role in
maintaining a state of
sustained attention, a critical shortcoming in those with ADHD. In other
words, keeping adequate levels of vitamin D could potentially help prop up
lower levels of this attention-sustaining neurochemical.
* Learning and memory
deficits, both of which are heavily present in the ADHD population, have
been tied to prenatal vitamin D deficiencies in the rat model. This involves
a process called synaptic plasticity, which relates to memory formation in
an individual. If this finding extends to humans, it could have serious
implications on maintaining adequate vitamin D intake in pregnant women.
* Problems with fine motor control are sometimes seen as a secondary
characteristic in a fraction of the ADHD population. These problems may be
exacerbated in a vitamin D
deficient state.
* Perhaps the strongest correlation, however, may be between
vitamin D and depressive-like
symptoms, particularly those associated with
seasonal affective disorders
(SAD). Please keep in mind, however, that studies on vitamin D levels and
depression are highly variable; a number of studies have been done on the
topic and found no such linkage between the two. We have previously
investigated possible connections between
ADHD and SAD in an earlier post.

This may make intuitive sense, since vitamin D production is triggered by
sunlight, so in the dark winter months, the levels of this vitamin are often
much lower (this may also be a major contributing factor as to why illnesses
run so much more rampant during the winter months). In other words, vitamin
D supplementation may be particularly useful in individuals with ADHD who
also have co-occuring depressive or anxiety-ridden symptoms.
To summarize: Vitamin D does not have as many pronounced direct effects on
ADHD as do some of the other vitamins, minerals, fatty acids and amino acids
we have previously discussed. Nevertheless, the vitamin does seem to have
multiple neurodevelopmental and neuroregulatory properties, and may go well
with comorbid disorders such as schizophrenia, speech difficulties, memory
problems, and (perhaps most strongly) depressive symptoms. Please keep in
mind, however, that it may not be possible to simply “supplement these
problems away” with extra vitamin D. This blogger just wants to point out
that a deficiency in this vitamin often manifests itself in many ways, some
of which closely parallel ADHD or related disorders. Nevertheless,
supplementing may not be a bad idea, especially if you live in an area that
gets minimal sunlight for part of (or all of) the year. Some rough
guidelines for
vitamin D
intake can be found here.

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