The Role of Nutritional Supplements in the Treatment of ADHD: What the Evidence Says

Curr Psychiatry Rep. 2017 Feb;19(2):8. doi: 10.1007/s11920-017-0762-1.


Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a common behavioral disorder in children and adolescents and may persist into adulthood. Insufficient nutritional supply of long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids (LC-PUFAs) and other components including various minerals has been suggested to play a role in the development of ADHD symptoms. This review presents the evidence regarding the role of nutritional PUFA, zinc, iron, and magnesium supplements in the treatment of ADHD with a focus on the critical evaluation of the relevant literature published from 2014 to April 2016. The evaluation of therapeutic nutritional LC-PUFA supplementation in ADHD has shown mixed and inconclusive results and at best marginal beneficial effects. The benefits of PUFAs are much smaller than the effect sizes observed for traditional pharmacological treatments of ADHD. The effectiveness of PUFA supplements in reducing medication dosage has been suggested but needs to be confirmed. Zinc, iron, and magnesium supplementation may reduce ADHD symptoms in children with or at high risk of deficiencies in these minerals. However, convincing evidence in this regard is lacking.

Keywords: ADHD; Iron; Magnesium; Nutritional supplements; Polyunsaturated fatty acids; Zinc.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Attention Deficit Disorder with Hyperactivity / therapy*
  • Central Nervous System Stimulants / therapeutic use
  • Child
  • Combined Modality Therapy
  • Dietary Supplements*
  • Evidence-Based Medicine*
  • Fatty Acids, Omega-3 / therapeutic use
  • Fatty Acids, Unsaturated / administration & dosage*
  • Humans
  • Minerals / administration & dosage*
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Central Nervous System Stimulants
  • Fatty Acids, Omega-3
  • Fatty Acids, Unsaturated
  • Minerals