Nowadays, Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) are commonly diagnosed in schoolgoing children. This usually results in a prescription for a central nervous stimulant such as methylphenidate (Ritalin, Concerta) or Adderall (a combination of four amphetamine derivatives).
Even though they are widely used, the use of these drugs to treat ADD and ADHD remains controversial. Common side effects include difficulty sleeping, anxiety, and loss of weight. More serious (but not so common) side effects include heart problems, psychosis, allergic reactions, prolonged erections and abuse.
Per capita, Iceland has one of the highest prescription rates of methylphenidate in the world. One study showed that the drug was also the most commonly abused substance among intravenous substance abusers. For the majority of the study participants, methylphenidate was their most preferred substance.
Methylphenidate is believed to work by increasing the amounts of certain stimulatory brain hormones (dopamine and noradrenaline). Over time, this leads to quieter behaviour and the ability to pay more attention.
The United States accounts for about 80% of global methylphenidate use.
The use of psycho-stimulant medication in children to reduce ADHD symptoms has been a major point of criticism. More and more parents are looking for more natural ways to treat their children’s attention deficit.
One product that has drawn some attention to itself (no pun intended) is Magnesium.
Magnesium has a number of well-known benefits on the brain, including better sleep, improved mood and better seizure control in people with epilepsy. Conversely, nearly two thirds of children diagnosed with attention deficit are magnesium deficient when tested. This has led to speculation whether magnesium has a role to play in attention span.
Magnesium and Brain Health
Magnesium is a mineral crucial for brain function. Magnesium affects the function and binding of neurotransmitters to their receptors, such as serotonin and dopamine (some of the brain’s feel-good hormones). Magnesium also keeps glutamate (an excitatory neurotransmitter) within appropriate limits (by blocking NMDA receptors). Magnesium also interacts with GABA receptors, thus supporting the calming actions of GABA.
Since magnesium calms the brain, many people wonder if it is helpful for ADHD. A study published in June 1997 (Magnesium Research) showed that supplementaiton with 200 mg of elemental magnesium per day led to a significant reduction in attention deficit type behaviour, compared to controls.
A review of studies done on magnesium for the treatment of ADHD in children concluded that although “studies supported that magnesium is effective for treating ADHD…until further strong evidences for its efficacy and safety are provided, magnesium is not recommended for treating ADHD.” Yawn. This is sooo typical of modern “evidence-based” medical literature. Some medical professionals will ignore what is already clearly known. Instead, they keep on insisting on more (expensive and hard to execute) double-blind randomized studies.
Magnesium supplementation is both safe and effective, and it is critically important for children who are deficient. Even if magnesium had no effect on attention deficit type behaviour, the other benefits (improved athletic performance, stronger bones and teeth, less allergic responses, stronger immune system, faster healing rates) are reason enough to supplement children with magnesium.
The safety of magnesium has been well established. There have been no deaths reported from oral magnesium supplementation. None. Zip. Zilch. Zero. You get the picture.
By contrast, a handful of children die from methylphenidate side effects every year.
Can my child overdose on magnesium?
An overdose of magnesium will result in loose stool (diarrhoea). This is temporary, and will go away once the excess magnesium has left the body. Excess magnesium does not even reach the bloodstream.
Magnesium supplementation is thus safe and worth trying, especially when we consider the dangers of ADHD drugs.
The recommended dietary allowance (RDA) of magnesium for children ages one to three is 80 mg per day.
Children ages four to five: 130 mg magnesium per day.
By age nine, our government recommends that kids should be getting (at least) 240 mg of magnesium per day.
And at age fourteen, between 360 to 410 mg per day.
Keep in mind, only about 30 to 40 percent of dietary magnesium is absorbed by the body.
Remember, too much magnesium in a less-absorbable form can cause loose stools. This side effect can be prevented by reducing the amount of magnesium given and providing it in a more absorbable form. If larger total daily doses of magnesium are required, divide the dose into smaller amounts and give it multiple times throughout the day.
Magnesium Cafe’s Mag1 was especially formulated to avoid loose stools. It is highly available to the body, resulting in quick response to treatment (sometimes already on the first day of treatment).
Disclaimer: This post does not claim to diagnose, treat or cure any medical condition.