Role of Magnesium in the Body
Adequate magnesium levels are crucial for good health. Magnesium is essential for sufficient brain energy, plays an important role in central nervous system communication, and is crucial for serotonin production. (1)
Symptoms of magnesium deficiency include reduced cognitive ability and processes, reduced attention span, increased aggression, fatigue, irritability, nervousness, mood swings, and a lack of concentration. (1) Numerous studies have shown that magnesium deficiency is common in children with hyperactivity, impulsivity, inattention, or diagnosed ADHD. (1, 2)
The Link Between Magnesium Deficiency and ADHD
There is evidence to support the idea that certain environmental circumstances, such as an imbalance of essential dietary nutrients, combined with genetic background, may play a part in the development of ADHD. (3) One potential reason for this is that ADHD medication often suppresses appetite, therefore resulting in reduced nutrient intake, including that of magnesium. (3)
There are many possible explanations for the role that magnesium may play in the origin and development of ADHD. Magnesium plays an important role in biochemical and physiological neuronal processes where it can prompt the death of nerve cells (excitotoxicity) by controlling the glutamate N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) pathway, which is responsible for memory function and synaptic plasticity. (3) More recently, studies have shown that magnesium plays a crucial part in the conversion of essential fatty acids to omega-6 and omega-3 long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids, which play a key role in hyperactive behaviour. (3)
Study Results on Magnesium and Behavioural Disorders
A large observational study of 810 children with symptoms of inattention and behavioural problems showed a reduction in inattention, hyperactivity and impulsivity after 12 weeks of supplementation with 80 mg of magnesium, zinc, EPA, DHA and gamma-linolenic acid. (2) An improvement in clinical symptoms in children with ADHD was found in another intervention study when children were supplemented with a combination of magnesium and vitamin B6. (2) Yet another smaller study found that magnesium supplementation, or adequate amounts of magnesium in the diet, may be beneficial for children with ADHD. (1)
Magnesium supplementation is safe, with infrequent and only mild side effects being reported, typically diarrhea or abdominal cramps. (1) The pooled evidence supports the notion that clinicians should consider measuring red blood cell magnesium levels in individuals presenting with ADHD symptoms, and supplementing if levels are low. (1, 2)
1. El Baza F, AlShahawi HA, Zahra S, AbdelHakim RA. Magnesium supplementation in children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Egyptian Journal of Medical Human Genetics. 2016;17(1):63-70.
2. Villagomez A, Ramtekkar U. Iron, Magnesium, Vitamin D, and Zinc Deficiencies in Children Presenting with Symptoms of Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder. Children (Basel, Switzerland). 2014;1(3):261-79.
3. Effatpanah M, Rezaei M, Effatpanah H, Effatpanah Z, Varkaneh HK, Mousavi SM, et al. Magnesium status and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD): A meta-analysis. Psychiatry Research. 2019;274:228-34.