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More on Using Supplements for Attention Issues (including ADD)

by Dr. Arielle Levitan and Dr. Romy Block

In our previous article we discussed some supplements that have been show to be beneficial to attention, including attention deficit disorder (ADD).  As you know, not everything that is suggested to be useful actually has the desired result.

Zinc

Some have suggested Zinc can be useful to attention, however data is fairly inconclusive. In our opinion heavy metals should not be taken in supplements regularly unless there is a compelling reason. We do not believe that the evidence supports taking zinc daily for attention.

St. John’s Wort

In the late 90s and early 2000s St. John’s Wort was all the rage for many conditions. It was suggested to play a useful role in attention but this has not been at all born out. In fact many studies do not support its use for this purpose. We also advise extreme caution in using this herb since it has many potential interactions with other medications and side effects (including extreme reactions such as psychosis—or a dissociation with reality).

Caffeine

We would be remiss if we did not mention caffeine in a discussion of attention. It is known by everyone from high school aged kids on up that caffeine helps with attention and concentration. The “energy” market is thriving and chock full of products full of caffeine, touted for their ability to enhance academic and/or athletic performance. There is some basis for this. Caffeine works. However we believe strongly that caffeine should be obtained in moderate amounts from natural sources such as coffee or tea. The use of caffeine products and supplements can be both highly dangerous and ineffective (since high doses can often backfire and cause such a rush of energy that people experience anxiety and an inability to function). Overuse also interferes with sleep, which can really come back to bite you the next day.

Melatonin

Supplements are not always sought out for attention itself – one of the most commonly used supplements that is used in the context of ADD is melatonin. It is not used for the attention issue but rather to combat the insomnia that often accompanies prescription medication for ADD (stimulants). The use of melatonin is fairly widespread in both children and adults (see more in our chapter on sleep) and is generally considered safe and effective, though the wide ranging of dosing (sometimes between 1 and 15mg nightly) sometimes requires some trial and error to determine the ideal amount for each person. Enhancing sleep in itself can be very beneficial in aiding with the ability to attend during the day.

Vitamin D, Iron and B Vitamins

Likewise, people who suffer from lack of energy, fatigue or depression are also very prone to attention problems. It makes sense that correcting these issues will also help with the ability to focus. Many vitamins can be useful in treating lack of energy and depression, most notably, Vitamin D, iron and B vitamins. The amounts needed of each vary significantly based on the individual.

All in all vitamins can play a role in addressing issues with attention. We are all different and we all have different vitamin needs. We believe finding a Personalized Multivitamin tailored to your diet, lifestyle and health needs is one of the best ways to ensure you are taking safe and appropriate vitamins.

 The statements made in this article have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. Nothing contained herein is intended to be a diagnosis or constitute medical advice. The symptoms described in this article may be a result of a serious medical condition which requires medical treatment. You should consult with your doctor if you are experiencing any of the symptoms mentioned in this article and before beginning any vitamin or supplement regimen.

About the Author Arielle Levitan and Romy Block

Romy Block specializes in Endocrinology and Metabolism and is mother to three elementary age boys. Arielle Levitan is a doctor of Internal Medicine with a special interest in Preventive Medicine and Women’s Health. She is a mother of three active adolescents. As professional women with active family lives, they recognize that women, in their many roles, often neglect their own health needs and are uncertain about what vitamins to take. Each woman is different in her diet, exercise and health history, and will benefit from different nutrients. After years of advising their patients about the proper vitamins to take, Drs. Block and Levitan created Vous Vitamin™ to provide women everywhere with quality vitamins that are suited to their individual needs.

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