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Five Most Deficient Nutrients in Children with ADHD

There are many reasons there are more cases of ADHD today than twenty years ago. Believe it or not, one of the culprits is the poor nutrition children receive.  You might argue that children in the West eat better than children in other countries, and that the rising number of ADHD diagnosis cannot be due to the food they eat.  However, well-fed children aren't necessarily well-nourished, especially if you consider the fact that many foods marketed for children contain artificial additives and empty calories with little or no nutritional value.  The brain needs a certain amount of nutrients and minerals to perform at its best, and a deficiency in these nutrients often leads to common conditions like depression, ADHD, even autism.  Below is a list of the five nutrients most commonly deficient in children with ADHD.

Omega-3 essential fatty acids

Most children would prefer a juicy hamburger over baked fish, and this is the reason why kids today are often deficient in omega-3 essential fatty acids. This long-chain fat makes up most of the structure of the brain and is responsible for keeping neuronal membranes flexible and supple.  This enables neurons to send and receive neurotransmitters efficiently. When children receive too much omega-6 fats or cholesterol, these fats make up the structure of cell membranes and make them rigid.  Neurons with rigid membranes are more inefficient at receiving neurotransmitters, which translates into psychological problems like chronic depression and hyperactive behavior. Replenish your child's omega-3 sources by serving baked or boiled fish twice a day; fried fish and salted fish do not have as much omega-3 fat. Leafy green vegetables contain omega-3 fatty acids too.


Did you know that calcium enables the release of neurotransmitters?  If you look at the symptoms of calcium deficiency, you'll see behaviors similar to ADHD – irritability, sleep disorders, inattentiveness.  It's not very hard to find calcium-rich foods in the supermarket, but try to stick to green vegetables as a calcium source.  Dairy products contain casein, a protein that the body has difficulty digesting.  Partially-digested casein forms opioid peptides, which have sedative effects and can cause difficulty focusing, forgetfulness, and inattention.


Magnesium regulates energy level and brain function, and participates in over 300 chemical reactions in the body.   Part of what causes a magnesium deficiency is when the child eats too much calcium. Magnesium and calcium are molecularly linked, which means too much or too little of one mineral affects the body's ability to metabolize the other.  Magnesium can be replenished by avoiding refined flour, sugar, and salt, and using organic salt, flour, and natural sweeteners in their place.  You can also use calcium citrate, an absorbable supplement that contains the proper proportions of magnesium and calcium.


A deficiency in the mineral zinc can be easily mistaken for ADHD; after all, its symptoms are uncontrollable hyperactivity and inattention.  Zinc affects the release and activity of the neurotransmitters dopamine and serotonin and the hormone melatonin, which regulates sleep.  Zinc can be found in beef, the dark meat of chicken, brown rice, potato, salmon, and shellfish.


Like zinc, iron participates in regulating neurotransmitter activity and production. Aside from that, children deficient in iron are more able to absorb lead, mercury, and other heavy metals.  Before giving your child an iron supplement, make sure you verify the deficiency through a nutrient element test. Too much iron can be toxic and cause free radical damage.