Traditionally, the treatment for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder has focused predominantly on stimulant medications and behavioral therapy. But in recent years, parents of children with ADHD and adult sufferers are looking to more natural remedies and supplements to treat the symptoms. Niacin is a suggested supplemental treatment; however, there is little evidence to support its use.
Niacin, also known as Vitamin B-3, is part of the B vitamin family. It has several functions, which include converting carbohydrates to glucose, the fuel that creates energy for the body. It also helps with nervous system functioning, metabolizing proteins and fats, minimizing cholesterol, producing hormones and enhancing blood circulation. Niacin may be useful in treating individuals with high cholesterol, diabetes, osteoarthritis and atherosclerosis; however, the side effects of higher doses can make its use dangerous. Side effects may include stomach ulcers, liver damage, headache and blurred vision. When taken in high doses, doctors often recommend a liver function test to ascertain its effects.
Sources of Niacin
Niacin deficiencies are uncommon, as most people get the needed amount from their diets. Natural sources of niacin include fish, beets, tuna, salmon, peanuts, beef liver, and sunflower seeds. Manufacturers fortify other foods like cereal and bread with niacin as well. As a supplement, niacin comes in three forms: niacin, niacinimide and inositol hexaniacinate. Tablets and capsules may be regular or timed-release, with the latter showing fewer side effects. The recommended dose for men over the age of 19 is 16 mg, while for women it is 14 mg.
Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder is a behavioral disorder typically diagnosed in childhood. There is a strong genetic component to ADHD, with research showing that the brains of these children work differently than others. Symptoms of ADHD may fall in one of two categories: inattention or hyperactive/impulsive. Some children demonstrate only one type of symptom, while others demonstrate both. Inattention often manifests as difficulty in following instructions, listening and staying focused. Other common factors include distraction from outside stimuli, losing or forgetting things and disorganization. Symptoms of hyperactivity and impulsivity include difficulty sitting still, fidgeting, always moving, talking nonstop, interrupting others and difficulty waiting for a turn.
Niacin for ADHD
According to Baptist Health Systems, some literature has recommended the use of niacin to treat the symptoms of ADHD, but at the time of publication, no concrete research supported this claim. Per the Alternative Medicine Review, vitamins and minerals may help to minimize the symptoms of ADHD. While niacin is an important B vitamin in the diet and can enhance brain functioning, there is little support for the connection between it and ADHD’s symptoms. There is support for the use of multivitamins, which includes niacin as an important ingredient. But there is also belief that any vitamin-enriching supplement will benefit children with ADHD. A new modified form of niacin, known as NADH, has shown improvements in brain functioning along with parent reports of better attention, suggesting that it may have benefits for ADHD symptoms. However, there is very limited research evidence, and so far, it shows no definitive benefits of using niacin for ADHD.