When your child has been diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder,or ADHD, it takes a combination of behavioral therapy, medication and lifestyle changes to address the disorder. One promising nutritional therapy includes increasing the intake of vitamin B-6. However, supplementing with vitamin B-6 is often dangerous, so it should only be done in consultation with a doctor.
ADHD affects 3 to 5 percent of all school-age children and is characterized by hyperactivity, inattention and impulsivity. For an ADHD diagnosis, problems must occur in at least two different settings, such as school, home and with friends, must appear before age 7 and must interfere with everyday life. The specific cause of ADHD remains unknown and diagnosis is made difficult by a lack of definitive tests for the disorder. The current treatment for ADHD is also controversial, but it typically involves a combination of medication and therapy designed to minimize symptoms and reduce the disruption to normal life that the disorder causes.
Vitamin B-6, also known as pyridoxine, functions in the brain to help form myelin and synthesizes the neurotransmitters serotonin and norepinephrine. Vitamin B-6 is found in vegetables, legumes, meat, dairy, eggs, fish and cereal grains. Because of its importance in proper brain function, pyridoxine deficiency or insufficiency has been implicated in many disorders involving the brain, including ADHD. The recommended daily allowance of vitamin B-6 for children and adolescents ranges from 100 to 1,200 mcg per day and from 1,300 mcg to 2,000 mcg daily for adults.
The evidence for treating ADHD with supplemental vitamin B-6 remains mixed, with some studies showing a positive effect and others finding no correlation. In some studies, such as a 2006 study in the journal "Magnesium Research," vitamin B-6 administered along with magnesium showed a beneficial effect over the course of two months, including reducing hyperactivity and improving school attention. When the treatment was halted, the ADHD symptoms returned.
High doses of vitamin B-6 causes nerve damage, so you should only give this vitamin in supplemental form under the supervision of a physician. Some people also develop mild side effects when taking vitamin B-6, including headache, nausea and photosensitivity. Vitamin B-6 in food doses are considered safe, so increasing the amount of pyridoxine-rich foods provides more of this valuable nutrient while avoiding the need for supplements. The maximum dosage of vitamin B-6 ranges from 30 mg to 80 mg in kids and teens. Adults should take no more than 100 mg of vitamin B-6 daily.
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder; December 2008
- "Magnesium Research"; Improvement of Neurobehavioral Disorders in Children Supplemented with Magnesium-Vitamin B6. I. Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorders; M. Mousain-Bosc, et al.; March 2006
- MayoClinic.com: Vitamin B6; April 2011