Objectives: Little research has investigated how micronutrients (minerals and vitamins) affect cognitive functioning, despite preliminary studies showing they may improve psychiatric functioning.
Intervention: This pilot study investigated the impact of a 36-ingredient micronutrient formula consisting mainly of vitamins and minerals on neurocognitive functioning in 14 adults with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and severe mood dysregulation.
Design: The formula was consumed in an open-label trial over an 8-week period.
Outcome measures: The participants completed tests of memory (Wide Range Assessment of Memory and Learning) and executive functioning (Delis-Kaplan Executive Functioning System and Conners Continuous Performance Test) at baseline and at the end of the trial. A gender- and age-matched control group of 14 non-ADHD adults not taking the formula were assessed on the same tests 8 weeks apart in order to investigate the impact of practice on the results.
Results: There were no group differences in ethnicity, socio-economic status and estimated IQ. Significant improvement was observed in the ADHD group, but not the control group, across a range of verbal abilities including verbal learning, verbal cognitive flexibility and fluency, and verbal inhibition. These neurocognitive improvements were large and consistent with improved psychiatric functioning. No changes were noted above a practice effect in visual-spatial memory and there were no improvements noted in reaction time, working memory, or rapid naming for either groups.
Conclusions: Although the pilot and open-label design of the study limits the generalizability of the results, it supports a growing body of literature recognizing the importance of nutrients for mental health and cognition. The results also provide evidence supporting the need for randomized clinical trials of micronutrients as well as other experimental studies in order to better assess whether improved neurocognitive functioning may contribute to improved psychiatric symptoms.