Could treatment of iron deficiency both improve ADHD and reduce cardiovascular risk during treatment with ADHD drugs?

Med Hypotheses. 2012 Aug;79(2):246-9. doi: 10.1016/j.mehy.2012.04.049. Epub 2012 May 25.


Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is one of the most common childhood-onset neuropsychiatric conditions. Despite extensive research, the etiopathophysiological factors underlying ADHD are not completely understood. It has been suggested that iron deficiency may contribute to ADHD symptoms severity. Whereas evidence from studies based on serum ferritin measures, a marker of peripheral iron status, is somewhat mixed, preliminary recent evidence suggests a deficiency of brain iron in individuals with ADHD. Therefore, it has been proposed that either a deficiency of peripheral iron or a dysfunction of the blood-brain barrier, in the presence of normal peripheral iron levels, may contribute to low brain iron levels, which, in turn, would increase the risk for ADHD symptoms in a subgroup of individuals with this disorder. It has also been found that individuals with ADHD may be at increased risk of severe cardiovascular events during treatment with ADHD drugs, although the extent to which this occurs in ADHD patients compared to non-ADHD individuals is still matter of investigation. Since iron depletion has been recently reported as a risk factor for adverse prognosis in heart failure, iron deficiency might contribute both to ADHD symptoms severity before treatment and to increased risk of severe cardiovascular events during treatment with ADHD drugs in a selected subgroup of patients. Therefore, we hypothesize that the effective treatment of iron deficiency might lead both to improvement of ADHD symptoms severity and to a decrease of the risk of cardiovascular events during treatment with ADHD drugs. If empirical studies confirm this hypothesis, the clinician would be advised to systematically check iron status and effectively treat iron deficiency before starting a pharmacological treatment with ADHD drugs.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Anemia, Iron-Deficiency / epidemiology*
  • Anemia, Iron-Deficiency / therapy*
  • Attention Deficit Disorder with Hyperactivity / epidemiology*
  • Attention Deficit Disorder with Hyperactivity / prevention & control*
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / epidemiology*
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / prevention & control*
  • Causality*
  • Comorbidity
  • Humans
  • Prevalence
  • Risk Factors