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015 - Vitamin D & Attention Issues

posted Nov 11, 2015, 12:49 PM by Doug Muha

Counselor Notes 15

January 15, 2014

Vitamin D & Attention Issues

In the last issue of Counselor Notes, I mentioned six vitamins & minerals that the ADHD and Autism Nutritional Supplement Handbook considers as the “quick start” supplements because of their connection to ADHD.  In that issue I focused on magnesium and zinc.  In this issue, I want to pass along some notes on Vitamin D: 

¡  “Lots of studies have shown that ADHD kids had an insufficient quantity of Vitamin D which is particularly important for the functioning of the brain. This was the result of a study done at the Children's Hospital in Oakland CA. Other studies support this and Vitamin D is regarded as a vital element in helping the brain to function normally and that will mean, improved concentration, less impulsivity and better focus.”   http://www.articlesbase.com/parenting-articles/adhd-alternative-vitamins-which-ones-do-you-include-in-your-diet--849622.htm

¡  “It’s very important to get enough calcium, because it works in close partnership with vitamin D, which is critically important for the immune modulation that is generally needed to heal the 4-A disorders.  Vitamin D deficiency can be triggered by low calcium.”  (p. 219)  From Healing the New Childhood Epidemics  by Kenneth Bock, M.D. and Cameron Stauth

¡  “Vitamin D deficiency is very common.  It is important for brain development, and cognition.  Deficiencies affect attention, focus, development, communications, immunity, and skin health.  Risk factors for deficiency of vitamin D include: inadequate sun exposure (or the use of sun block), darker skin pigmentation, obesity, breast feeding, low dietary intake, and fat malabsorbtion.”  The ADHD and Autism Nutritional Supplement Handbook – Dana Godbout Laake R.D.H. and Pamela Compart, M.D.,  54)

¡  “Vitamin D – this fat-soluble vitamin is actually a hormone that directs the conversion of tyrosine to cats [catecholamines – neurotransmitters dopamine, norepinephrine, adrenalin] in the brain and your adrenal glands.  Vitamin D orchestrates much of this action through its relationship with calcium, which is literally at the controls in your brain cells (as well as your bond cells).”  The Mood Cure by Julia Ross M.A.

Vitamin D actually helps with more than just attention:  http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/druginfo/natural/929.html

I am going to finish off this issue with a lot of material from http://adhd-treatment-options.blogspot.com/2010/03/adhd-and-vitamin-d-deficiency-any.html.  This is a web site that parents of an ADHD child may want to allocate some time to exploring.  There is A LOT of good information there.  Here is just some of what they have to say about ADHD and Vitamin D:

However, given the fact that vitamin D is such a "hot" vitamin and has been a popular supplement as of late, we should investigate some of its potential benefits with regard to ADHD and related disorders. Please keep in mind that many of these points below are more theoretical or speculative, because most of the hard, concrete evidence in well-documented clinical controlled studies simply does not exist at the moment. Nevertheless, here are some possible ways in which vitamin D may help in cases of ADHD or related disorders:

¡  Vitamin D can boost levels of the antioxidant glutathione in the brain. One way that vitamin D does this is by regulating an enzyme called gamma-glutamyl transpeptidase, which plays a role in both the metabolism and recycling of glutathione. We have spoken at length about how antioxidant deficits can worsen ADHD symptoms, and how fatty acids (namely omega-3's) are frequently administered for ADHD and related disorders. Given the high makeup of these omega-3 fatty acids in the brain, and their susceptibility to oxidation and damage in the central nervous system, protecting them by boosting antioxidant levels (either directly or indirectly) is a good bet. 

¡  One of the current theories surrounding ADHD is that it is (at least partially) an energy deficiency syndrome, or is the result of impaired metabolic abilities in key regions of the central nervous system. While highly debatable, this theory holds that impaired glucose metabolism in various parts of the brain may be a major contributing factor to the presence or severity of this disorder. 

While this blogger is currently neutral on this deficiency theory, it is interesting to note that vitamin D can help regulate glucose transport into the brain, which would (at least in theory) improve this possible cause of the disorder. It is believed that vitamin D works by targeting multiple enzymes involved in glucose transport and metabolism. Much more study needs to be done to confirm this assertion, but this may be another potential benefit of boosting vitamin D levels in the ADHD patient. 

¡  Vitamin D may play a role in catecholamine synthesis. Catecholamines include the neurotransmitters dopamine and norepinephrine, both of which are believed to be tightly regulated and highly involved in the treatment of ADHD (deficiencies of both dopamine and norepinephrine in the "gaps" between neuronal cells are often seen in cases of ADHD). 

¡  Vitamin D boosts the effects of an enzyme called choline acetyltransferase in the mammalian brain. This enzyme is used in the manufacture of another neurotransmitting agent called acetylcholine. Acetylcholine is thought to play a major role in maintaining a state of sustained attention, a critical shortcoming in those with ADHD. In other words, keeping adequate levels of vitamin D could potentially help prop up lower levels of this attention-sustaining neurochemical. 

¡  Learning and memory deficits, both of which are heavily present in the ADHD population, have been tied to prenatal vitamin D deficiencies in the rat model. This involves a process called synaptic plasticity, which relates to memory formation in an individual. If this finding extends to humans, it could have serious implications on maintaining adequate vitamin D intake in pregnant women. 

¡  Problems with fine motor control are sometimes seen as a secondary characteristic in a fraction of the ADHD population. These problems may be exacerbated in a vitamin D deficient state. 

¡  Perhaps the strongest correlation, however, may be between vitamin D and depressive-like symptoms, particularly those associated with seasonal affective disorders (SAD). Please keep in mind, however, that studies on vitamin D levels and depression are highly variable; a number of studies have been done on the topic and found no such linkage between the two. We have previously investigated possible connections between ADHD and SAD in an earlier post. 

This may make intuitive sense, since vitamin D production is triggered by sunlight, so in the dark winter months, the levels of this vitamin are often much lower (this may also be a major contributing factor as to why illnesses run so much more rampant during the winter months). In other words, vitamin D supplementation may be particularly useful in individuals with ADHD who also have co-occurring depressive or anxiety-ridden symptoms.

Children today as a group are spending increasingly less time outdoors.  That means less exposure to sunlight and the vitamin D it helps produce.  Considering how much closer mankind lived to nature throughout human history, spending some more time outdoors might not be such a bad thing.  Parents who choose to use Vitamin D supplements should be careful not to give their child too much – as with other vitamins & minerals, an excess of Vitamin D can be detrimental to one’s health.  (For more on that, please see: http://www.webmd.com/osteoporosis/features/the-truth-about-vitamin-d-can-you-get-too-much-vitamin-d )  

Doug Muha Ed.S.
School Counselor
Waverly Elementary School

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