Individual nutrients have been the focus of studies attempting to determine the role that they may play in the expression of ADHD in children. The most nutrients most studied are omega-3 fatty acids, iron and zinc.
Omega-3 fatty acids are the most commonly studied nutrients for brain health. That is due to the fact that omega-3 fatty acids are large molecules that help increase cell membrane fluidity. EPA is particularly important in playing a role in dopamine signaling. DHA helps increase cell membrane fluidity and is highly concentrated at the end of the dendrites and improves synaptic release of neurotransmitters as well as improving neuronal signaling.
These nutrients zinc and iron have been studied is due to the role that iron plays as a coenzyme of tyrosine hydroxylase, critical for dopamine synthesis—which is important for attention. Zinc also plays a role in regulating the dopamine transporter, among its many functions There are fewer studies, though more are being done looking at the impact of broad spectrum of nutrient levels on the expression of ADHD in adults.
This study investigated predictors of response to a micronutrient treatment for adults with ADHD, which produced significant changes in all out come measures from pre- to post-supplementation. These findings are consistent with a large body of international literature showing the benefit of micronutrients as a treatment for psychiatric disorders. Three baseline vitamin/nutrient levels showed an association with treatment response: ferritin, vitamin D, and copper. Greater ferritin at baseline predicted who would be classified as an ADHD responder, lower vitamin D at baseline predicted greater change on two outcome measures (MADRS and GAF), and lower copper levels also predicted greater response on two of the six outcome measures (MADRS and CGI-I).
ADHD is a complex multifactorial disorder that has multiple risk factors of which nutrient deficiency may be only one of them. No single nutrient deficiency is likely necessary or sufficient to explain the disorder.