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Health News Archive 291 - ADHD
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Iron Deficiency a Factor in ADHD

The mean serum ferritin concentration was significantly lower in 53 French children (mean age, 9.2 years; range 4-14) with attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) than in 27 age-matched controls without ADHD (23 vs. 44 ng/ml; p<0.001).  Low serum ferritin levels were correlated with more severe general ADHD symptoms, as measured with the Conners' Parent Rating Scale (r = -0.34; p<0.02), and with greater cognitive deficits (r = -0.38; p<0.01).

Comment by Alan R. Gaby, MD

Iron deficiency can cause a wide range of abnormalities in mood and behavior.  In addition, iron deficiency in early childhood can adversely affect brain development.  Previous studies have shown that iron supplementation can improve various parameters of mental function in children with iron deficiency.  Moreover, one study showed that iron supplementation improved behavioral and cognitive symptoms in children with ADHD who did not have laboratory evidence of iron deficiency.  In that study, the mean ferritin concentration at baseline was towards the lower end of the normal range (25.9 ng/ml), and increased by about 70% after iron supplementation.  Thus, the children may have had sub-optimal iron status, even though they did not fulfill standard criteria for iron deficiency.

Iron status should be measured in all children with ADHD.  Those who are deficient, and possibly those whose ferritin levels are near the bottom of the normal range, should receive iron supplementation.

Source: Konofal E, et al. Iron deficiency in children with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder. Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med 2004;158:1113-1115.

Reprinted with exclusive permission of The Townsend Letter for Doctors & Patients Jul 2005.

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