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Effects of Zinc Studied in Children with ADHD

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Posted: 9/19/2005

COLUMBUS, Ohio – In the latest study examining nutritional approaches to treating attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder in children, Ohio State University Medical Center researchers are exploring whether the nutrient zinc alone or combined with medicine offers a new treatment alternative or the potential to reduce the need for medication. It is the first clinical trial in the country to measure various effects of zinc on this population of children.

Researchers are seeking participants for the study, which is designed to determine whether zinc supplementation improves the symptoms of ADHD and whether combining zinc with amphetamine improves ADHD symptoms more than amphetamine alone does. Other goals are to find whether the combination of zinc and amphetamine can produce a good result with a lower dose of amphetamine and whether children with low zinc will improve more by taking zinc than children who have no signs of zinc deficiency.

Stimulant medications, such as amphetamine and methylphenidate, have been used to treat ADHD symptoms for more than 50 years and are considered safe and effective, but individual patients often have troublesome side effects. OSU medical researchers have been exploring nutritional options for ADHD treatment for a number of years as possible treatments for patients who don’t respond well to the most prescribed medications for the disorder.

“Zinc deficiency mimics symptoms of ADHD,” said Dr. L. Eugene Arnold, a child psychiatrist at Ohio State’s Nisonger Center and principal investigator for the zinc study.

“Preliminary work suggests the ADHD population may have a higher prevalence of marginal zinc deficiency and that zinc nutritional status may interact with amphetamine effectiveness,” said Arnold, a scientist with the Research Unit on Pediatric Psychopharmacology (RUPP) at OSU. “It is possible that zinc supplementation to medication could improve a child’s ADHD symptoms more than amphetamine alone.”

The double-blind study lasts 21 weeks, including a period when zinc supplementation is compared to placebo and an extension that will allow all participants a chance to try zinc supplementation under controlled conditions. Participating children must be between age 6 and 14 and satisfy criteria for an ADHD diagnosis. The diagnosis of ADHD requires chronic problems of inattention, distractibility and impulsiveness dating from before age 7, with symptoms that interfere with academic and other activities.

For more information about study participation, contact Dawn Bozzolo at 614-688-3848 or bozzolo.6@osu.edu.

Ohio State RUPP researchers are also accepting participants for a study of a medicated skin patch for ADHD in children ages 6 to 12. Further information on this and other studies can be found on the Web at the link below or by calling 614-688-3848.

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Emily Caldwell
Medical Center Communications

Behavioral Health; Clinical/Translational Research; OSU Medical Center