Effects of a synbiotic on symptoms, and daily functioning in attention deficit hyperactivity disorder - A double-blind randomized controlled trial

Brain Behav Immun. 2020 Oct:89:9-19. doi: 10.1016/j.bbi.2020.05.056. Epub 2020 Jun 1.


Some prebiotics and probiotics have been proposed to improve psychiatric symptoms in children with autism. However, few studies were placebo-controlled, and there is no study on persons with an attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) diagnosis. Our aim was to study effects of Synbiotic 2000 on psychiatric symptoms and functioning in children and adults with ADHD without an autism diagnosis. Children and adults (n = 182) with an ADHD diagnosis completed the nine weeks randomized double-blind parallel placebo-controlled trial examining effects of Synbiotic 2000 on the primary endpoints ADHD symptoms, autism symptoms and daily functioning, and the secondary endpoint emotion regulation, measured using the questionnaires SNAP-IV, ASRS, WFIRS, SCQ, AQ and DERS-16. Levels at baseline of plasma C-reactive protein and soluble vascular cell adhesion molecule-1 (sVCAM-1), central to leukocyte-endothelial cell adhesion facilitating inflammatory responses in tissues, were measured using Meso Scale Discovery. Synbiotic 2000 and placebo improved ADHD symptoms equally well, and neither active treatment nor placebo had any statistically significant effect on functioning or sub-diagnostic autism symptoms. However, Synbiotic 2000, specifically, reduced sub-diagnostic autism symptoms in the domain restricted, repetitive and stereotyped behaviors in children, and improved emotion regulation in the domain of goal-directed behavior in adults. In children with elevated sVCAM-1 levels at baseline as well as in children without ADHD medication, Synbiotic 2000 reduced both the total score of autism symptoms, and the restricted, repetitive and stereotyped behaviors. In adults with elevated sVCAM-1 at baseline, Synbiotic 2000 significantly improved emotion regulation, both the total score and four of the five subdomains. To conclude, while no definite Synbiotic 2000-specific effect was detected, the analysis of those with elevated plasma sVCAM-1 levels proposed a reduction of autism symptoms in children and an improvement of emotion regulation in adults with ADHD. Trial registration number: ISRCTN57795429.

Keywords: Autism; Emotion reactivity; Inflammation; Lactic acid bacteria; Lactobacillus; Prebiotics; Probiotics; Repetitive behavior; Vascular cell adhesion molecule-1.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Attention Deficit Disorder with Hyperactivity* / therapy
  • Child
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Humans
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Synbiotics*
  • Treatment Outcome