Results of a preliminary study on attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) found that treatment with L-Carnitine led to improved home and school behavior and a significant decrease in attention problems and aggressive behavior in boys with ADHD, as compared to baseline. L-Carnitine is a small, water-soluble nutrient involved in the conversion of fats to energy. Researchers have suggested that L-Carnitine is also involved in membrane repair in the nervous system, including in the neurons (nerve cells).

Study Finding:
Phase I: In four children with ADHD and low plasma carnitine levels, providing 100mg carnitine/kg/day twice daily caused a decrease in their hyperactive, impulsive behavior. After cessation of the carnitine, abnormal behavior returned and reintroduction of carnitine improved the behavior again.

Phase II: Extending this intervention, a study was carried out with 26 boys, aged between six and 13 years with ADHD diagnosis, who were not receiving any stimulant medication. The boys were divided into two groups and received three treatment periods of eight weeks each: placebo-carnitine-placebo or carnitine-placebo-carnitine. The boys were given 100mg/kg of L-Carnitine daily (up to a maximum dose of 4g) or placebo mixed in a beverage twice daily after meals.

Throughout the trial, the ADHD behavior was measured by parents completing the child behavior checklist and by teachers completing the Conners teacher-rating score. In addition, blood samples and physical examinations were taken after each period. Treatment with L-Carnitine significantly decreased the attention problems and aggressive behavior in boys with ADHD. In 13 of 24 boys, both home and school behavior improved. Compared to baseline, the L-Carnitine treatment caused in the responsive patients a decrease of 20-65 percent of problems recorded and a significant improvement in recorded behavior.

In the last 10 years new roles for L-Carnitine have been recognized, including metabolism of fatty acids to docosahexaenoic acid, which is important for brain maturation and functioning. The concentration of this fatty acid is decreased in plasma of ADHD patients. The Dutch leaders of this study, Van Oudheusden and Scholte, hypothesize that L-Carnitine stimulates the synthesis of both acetylcholine (a neurotransmitter) and docosahexaenoic acid in certain areas of the brain involved in ADHD.(n1) While the investigators recognize this study has a limited subject group, they suggest that carnitine may be a safe alternative to drugs used to treat ADHD.

ADHD is a diagnosis applied to people with consistent behavioral problems including distractibility, impulsivity and hyperactivity. According to epidemiological data, approximately four to six percent of the u.s. population has ADHD. This condition is not limited to children and approximately one-half to two-thirds of children with ADHD will continue to have significant problems with ADHD symptoms and behaviors as adults.

(n1). Van Oudheusden, L. J. and Scholte, H. R. "Efficacy of carnitine in the treatment of children with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder." Prostaglandins, Leukotrienes and Essential Fatty Acids (2002). Vol. 67 (1) pp. 33-8.

--Source: Lonza, Inc. Fair Lawn, New Jersey

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