ADHD: Zinc and Copper

ADHD: Zinc and Copper

References:  ZRT BlogProgress in NeuropsychopharmacologyActa Paediatrica,

We have been reporting on the roll of Zinc and Copper in cognitive decline in adults. It should come as little surprise that children have cognitive issues when their zinc and copper aren’t properly tuned. With all the recent reporting about lead in Flint, Michigan, increased awareness about the dangers of lead are now common knowledge. But imbedded in the Flint story has also been data showing excess copper in many water systems, including Flint’s.

The human body needs a very fine balance of copper and zinc. Copper is needed to make dopamine. Dopamine is a happy hormone when properly balanced leads to alertness and good motivation. But too much copper makes for too much dopamine, which then turns into norepinephrine, leading to irritability, hyperactivity, impulsivity, agitation and aggressiveness. Hmm. Sounds like ADHD to me. Most ADHD meds work by increasing dopamine. But with excess copper, that won’t happen. In fact, you get the opposite. And excess copper blocks the production of serotonin, another happy hormone resulting in depression and anxiety. A randomized trial of adults with ADHD showed the same thing; those with higher copper levels had worse response to treatment than those with lower copper levels. Conclusion: too much copper isn’t good for you.
What about zinc? Well, zinc and copper behave a bit like a teeter-totter. One goes up when the other goes down. Living in a world of copper pipes that leach copper, just like lead pipes leach lead, we are all getting too much copper. And as a consequence, most of us have too like zinc. What impact does that have on ADHD? Many studies have proven that zinc deficiency plays a strong role in ADHD. A recent study from Egypt showed a direct inverse relationship with zinc levels and hyperactivity. Those with the lowest levels of zinc had the worst problems with conduct, anxiety, hyperactivity. Hence, it’s not hard to show that kids with the lowest levels of zinc have the worst symptoms.
Guess what happens when you resupply zinc back? Your teeter totter balances back. Rising zinc lowers copper. And research in ADHD has shown exactly that. When 400 kids with ADHD were given zinc at 150 mg a day for 12 weeks, those given the zinc had markedly less (statistically significant) hyperactivity, oppositional behavior and improved attention. 150 mg is a whopping big dose of zinc and is safe only in the short term, like 10 weeks. But even 15 mg a day for 10 weeks results in significantly better behavior and attention.
Did you get all that? We know zinc plays a big role in adults but this was news to me, it’s effect on kids with ADHD. Considering that zinc is so critical to a healthy brain, it’s not surprising. Particularly considering the diet of most American kids, not a lot of: oysters, beans, nuts, clams, and whole grains and dairy. Maybe the dairy. But then, there is the issue of A1 milk with dairy, so nix that.
WWW.What will work for me. I’m taking zinc myself to keep my Zinc level above my copper as a function of brain health. Most of the folks I’ve measured it in require 25-50 mg extra a day to increase their zinc above their copper, and even then it takes a year to get there. I have seen so many people with zinc levels in the 50s, when it should be in the 90-100s, I’m not surprised that it has an effect. That low has to be problematic, when hundreds of enzymes use zinc as their focus. Our immune system requires it for proper functioning. I’ve heard of one serious zinc toxicity case, so I do know you can take too much. Get it measured.

Pop Quiz

  1. Zinc supplementation is helpful in ADHD. T or F

Bingo. In a nutshell.

Zinc is common in fruits and vegetables. T or F

Well, more so in sea food like oysters and clams, nuts, whole grains and dairy.

There are studies showing that 150 mg of zinc is safe? T or F

It’s true, if you only take it for 12 weeks, the length of the study here. Otherwise, it can lower copper too far.

4.  Zinc and copper are both in some odd relationship to each other, with copper driving zinc down, and vice versa. Like a teeter totter.

Yup, yup, yup

Too much copper is bad for ADHD. T or F

Again, yes. And that is why you need zinc supplementation to lower your copper level. I suspect we are going to find that too much copper is bad for lots of mental health problems. To follow

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