How Vitamin C can be an Effective Treatment Method for ADHD
We have previously discussed nutritional treatment methods for ADHD, including other "10 Ways" posts for carnitine and zinc . However, vitamin C, while often associated as being more of an immune-boosting and heart healthy antioxidant vitamin, may also play a crucial (and often underrated) role in taming the negative symptoms associated with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, or ADHD.
Before we go any further, I must establish the appropriate context as to how we should interpret this blog post. Some of the following information on vitamin C surrounds more of the potential ways in which the vitamin can interact with the causative mechanisms of ADHD, and is more speculative than that of evidence-based controlled clinical trials. Other abilities or utilizations of the vitamin (such as vitamin C's ability to boost iron absorption , or the vitamin C-dependence of various enzymes required to metabolize ADHD medications or parallel nutrition strategies) are well-documented and better established.
Having said that, out of these following 10 reasons for vitamin C supplementation for treating ADHD, around 3 to 4 are well-grounded on clinical evidence, about 3 to 4 are plausible arguments, but with potentially great limiting factors, and 3 to 4 are possible, but largely hypothetical at the current time. It is the intent of the blogger not to persuade or advocate the rampant consumption of megadoses of this vitamin, but rather to illustrate the complexities of our metabolic systems as to how such a basic vitamin can be tied into so many ADHD-relevant processes.
Based on the conclusions of the various research papers which I am about to highlight in this posting, it appears that high levels of vitamin C supplementation will do little to alleviate ADHD symptoms, especially when compared to efficacy other nutrients with better track records such as omega-3's , iron , magnesium and zinc . Based on (often substantially) greater piles of evidence, stronger claims can generally be made for a correlation between deficiencies of these aforementioned nutrients and ADHD severity than for the connection between ADHD and levels of vitamin C.
Instead, this post is meant more as an advocate for the maintenance of recommended (or slightly higher) levels of vitamin C and avoiding deficiencies (which can decrease the processes optimized by this vitamin). Thus, it appears to be more accurate if we view vitamin C as an auxiliary or secondary co-treatment strategy for ADHD via natural dietary methods and not as a stand-alone ADHD treatment. This is important to remember as we work through this post and see some of vitamin C's potential (but not always decisively proven) "natural" ADHD treatment options.
We must also acknowledge that vitamin C exists in two major forms: the common (non-oxidized) form of the vitamin, also called ascorbic acid, or the oxidized form Dehydroascorbic Acid or DHA (Blogger's note: please don't confuse this vitamin-C derived "DHA" with the omega-3 fatty acid docosahexaenoic acid, which is also commonly abbreviated as DHA. They are two entirely different molecules. We have discussed the significance of this important omega-3 earlier posts).
As we will see later in this post, the two different forms of the vitamin have extremely different properties in several cases, including their methods of transport and uptake into the brain (while it may seem counterintuitive, given the fact that we often associate "oxidized" with being bad in the body, it is the oxidized DHA form of the vitamin actually has a number of advantages over the reduced form with regards to brain uptake).
Without further ado, here are 10 documented ways (as well as two "possibilities") in which this important vitamin can help with ADHD. While some of these may seem obvious, others appear to have a more obscure, but equally important role or function as an ADHD treatment method
**Two other possible advantages of boosting vitamin C intake for ADHD: Please note that these next two suggestions are more of a personal hypothesis of the blogger and less validated by adequate research. Nevertheless, they may be at least worth a mention:
It is important to realize that the body of research supporting these claims for utilizing vitamin C as an ADHD treatment strategy is all over the spectrum (from merely hypothetical ponderings to consistently verified controlled research studies).
At the moment, the strongest arguments for vitamin C treatment as a remedy to ADHD symptoms seem to be in protecting cells in the brain and nervous system from oxidative damage either directly via vitamin C's antioxidant capabilities or secondarily via vitamin C's ability to help regulate or "recycle" levels of other antioxidants, such as vitamin E (which much more effective at protecting the omega-3 rich regions of the brain from fatty acid oxidation) and glutathione. In other words, vitamin C is a great way to augment the ever-popular omega-3 fatty acid supplementation strategy for ADHD (and is unfortunately often overlooked by prescribing physicians).
While these effects are perhaps the most widely known among the health field, two other factors such as vitamin C's role in ADHD management are also well-documented and potentially on par with its role as a generalized antioxidant. Vitamin C is an important co-factor (enzyme helper) in a number of metabolic processes surrounding the disorder of ADHD, and is key to both the synthesis of important neurotransmitters such as dopamine and norepinephrine (which are often off-kilter in the ADHD population).
Thus, it may be a beneficial adjunct therapy for precursor loading (taking high levels of a nutrient which the body can then convert to the desired compound) with the amino acid tyrosine (which the body converts to dopamine and eventually norepinephrine via a series of enzyme-dependent steps, some which utilize vitamin C. In theory we're giving the body more starting material to work with to increase the output of these important neuro-signaling chemicals of clinical relevance to ADHD and related disorders. Please keep in mind that the literature seems to be split at the moment about the overall effectiveness of these precursor loading methods with regards to these ADHD treatment strategies).
In conclusion, maintaining adequate levels of vitamin C (for the recommended daily amounts of vitamin C, check here ) is an often overlooked treatment method for a variety of diseases and disorders beyond the common cold. While perhaps not as promising as some of the other nutritionally-based treatment strategies for ADHD which have been mentioned in the past in this blog, such as carnitine , zinc , omega-3 fatty acids , iron , or magnesium and B vitamins , this simple and relatively inexpensive treatment method may pay dividends in the long run.
Furthermore, with low risks of toxicity due to its highly water-soluble nature (overdosing on vitamin C usually results in little more than temporary bouts of diarrhea which are quickly reversible when the vitamin intake is scaled back), the payoff/risk factors are favorable for regular usage of vitamin C as an auxiliary or supplementary method of nutritionally-based ADHD treatment.