What Is the Connection between Magnesium and ADHD?

T. Broderick

The connection between magnesium and ADHD is that preliminary studies have suggested that low levels of magnesium in the brain are a factor in the development of ADHD. Magnesium has a key role in proper brain function. Its depletion in children and adolescents is due primarily to stress and poor nutrition. Having a child eat foods high in magnesium may improve ADHD symptoms. Before treating one's child though, it is necessary to consult a physician about treatment options for ADHD.

The connection between magnesium and ADHD is that preliminary studies have suggested that low levels of magnesium in the brain are a factor in the development of ADHD.
The connection between magnesium and ADHD is that preliminary studies have suggested that low levels of magnesium in the brain are a factor in the development of ADHD.

A normal functioning brain uses magnesium in a variety of ways. First and foremost, magnesium is essential to create the neurons' myelin sheaths; myelin sheaths quicken the rate of neural transmission. Magnesium also plays a role in eliminating waste ammonia in the brain. It assists neural transmission in another way, by regulating sodium and potassium levels, two elements needed for neural transmission to occur. These and other roles magnesium plays in the brain first led to the idea of the connection between magnesium and ADHD.

Spinach and other green leafy vegetables are high in magnesium, an electrolyte that is essential for proper brain functions.
Spinach and other green leafy vegetables are high in magnesium, an electrolyte that is essential for proper brain functions.

Two conditions common to adolescents in developed and undeveloped countries can cause a magnesium deficiency within the brain: stress and poor nutrition. Stress can come from many sources. Poor nutrition includes both malnutrition, not having enough food, and the obesity epidemic plaguing many developed countries. These conditions can cause magnesium levels in the brain to drop, especially if both are present in the same child. Though the medical community has not yet come to a consensus on whether there is a strong connection between low magnesium and ADHD, options exist to treat low magnesium levels in children and adolescents with ADHD.

Salmon is one of many foods naturally rich in magnesium.
Salmon is one of many foods naturally rich in magnesium.

A relatively safe way to treat the connection between magnesium and ADHD is to eat more foods containing magnesium. Many foods containing high levels of magnesium exist. Children or adolescents with picky appetites will most likely be able to tolerate the necessary diet change. Foods high in magnesium include almonds, cashews, spinach, cornmeal, black beans and whole wheat flour. A daily extra serving of one of these foods can promote higher magnesium levels within the brain.

Though one can improve magnesium levels through a change in diet, properly treating the connection between magnesium and ADHD can require the assistance of a physician. After a diagnosis of ADHD, it is important to discuss all appropriate treatment options with a physician. He or she can recommend a variety of treatment plans that both include and exclude medication.

Whole wheat flour is rich in dietary magnesium.
Whole wheat flour is rich in dietary magnesium.

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