Up to five percent of American children struggle with attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder, commonly known as ADHD.
Stimulating drugs like Ritalin don't always work or parents may be reluctant to use them. Now, some doctors are testing nutritional supplements as an alternative form of treatment.
Susan Coppel is a nurse who owns a clinic dedicated to treating children with ADHD. Susan knows a lot about the disorder, because five years ago her own son Michael was diagnosed with it. For years, Susan knew her son needed help, but she wasn't sure what was wrong. "I used to read books on allergies and your disobedient child trying to figure out what it was."
Michael is now controlling his condition behavioral skills like organization and time management along with the help of medicine. But for about ten percent of people with ADHD, drugs don't work. And in some cases, parents simply don't want their kids on medication.
That's why child psychistrist Dr. Eugene Arnold is trying to develop alternative treatments. He is leading a study at the Ohio State University Medical Center that will give ADHD patients a nutritional supplement called Carnitine. Carnitine is a fatty acid that helps your brain function efficiently.
You may not realize it, but a large part of your brain is made up of fat and it needs these acids to work properly. Dr. Arnold says, "Half of that fat has to be made up of these fatty acids. The brain will substitute others if those are not available, but they don't function as well." And that may be why these patients don't function as well. Dr. Arnold says giving them extra Carnitine in their diets may give them the balance they need to concentrate and lead more productive lives. The study will last through the end of the year.
Experts say ADHD is harder to diagnose in girls because they exhibit symptoms differently. While boys tend to talk a lot and act out, girls with ADHD often daydream and appear quiet or reserved.