DMAE and Bacopa for Attention Deficit Disorder

Q I have a 10-year-old son who has ADD (attention deficit disorder). It is my understanding that both DMAE and Bacopa can be valuable. If so, can they be used together, and what are the appropriate amounts?

CHEE, Singapore

A As I’m sure you’re aware, the drugs, such as Ritalin®, that are most commonly used for ADD (or ADHD, as it’s now called—the H stands for hyperactivity) have many side effects. The main ones are increased heart rate, elevated blood pressure, an overcaffeinated-like jitters, anorexia, and interference with sleep. By contrast, studies have shown that DMAE (dimethylaminoethanol), at doses of 100–500 mg/day, does not produce any of these side effects, while achieving many of the benefits of Ritalin. According to Dr. Leon Oettinger, the lead author of several studies1-2 on this nutrient, “[DMAE] was a most useful tool in the handling of the child with behavioral problems.”

The bulk of the findings come from the period 1958–1975, when Riker Laboratories marketed DMAE as a drug (it is now grandfathered as a dietary ingredient). The researchers found that it could be used to help children who were suffering from what was then called “minimal brain dysfunction” (the earlier name for ADHD) to achieve increased attention span. In one double-blind study of 75 children, Dr. Stanley Geller found that DMAE in doses of 50 mg given twice daily improved functioning capacity, puzzle-solving ability, and organization of activity.3

In another double-blind study of 50 moderately hyperkinetic children, Dr. Nathan Coleman found that 300–500 mg of DMAE given daily for 12 weeks produced overall behavioral improvement.4 Vouching for this, the parents of the children in the study were asked to rate the children (both the DMAE group and the placebo group) versus a normal peer group. They found those in the DMAE group to be about the same as those in the normal group, but the placebo group got worse.

It should be noted that ADHD is an overdiagnosed “epidemic,” and the reasons why are quite clear: the public school system always hungers for more funding, and one way to extract more money from the federal government is by having ever larger numbers of “learning-disabled” kids. This opens the federal spigots wider. Furthermore, sedating the kids makes the teachers’ work easier.

The tragedy is that many of the kids diagnosed with ADHD are quite normal, but they’ve fallen prey to corruption in the public school system that even Steve Jobs recently said “is off-the-charts crazy.”5 The reason, according to Jobs, is that it’s virtually impossible to fire bad teachers, so strong is the vice grip of the teachers union, the National Education Association (the biggest, most powerful union in the world). Is it any wonder that so many kids are medicated for “behavioral problems”?

Regarding Bacopa, the studies are less clear. I might add that few supplement companies (including Life Enhancement Products) are bold enough to recommend their nutrient products for children, owing to regulatory and liability issues but also, often, to legitimate medical concerns: children are not physiologically equivalent to adults, and most supplements have not been tested on children.

In this case, however, studies using Bacopa with children aged 6 to 8 found that it enhanced: immediate memory; perceptual abilities; reaction/performance times; short-term memory and recall; vigilance and attention; exploratory behavior; and speed and accuracy of maze solving.6

Even though Bacopa appears very promising and seems innocuous, one should consult a doctor when addressing medical problems or contemplating the use of this or any other supplement (including DMAE) by children.

References

  1. Oettinger L Jr. The use of deanol in the treatment of the disorders of behavior in children. J Pediatr 1958;53(6):761-75.
  2. Oettinger L Jr. Pediatric psychopharmacology. A review with special reference to deanol. Dis Nerv Syst 1977;38(12 Pt 2):25-31.
  3. Geller SJ. Comparison of a tranquilizer and a psychic energizer. JAMA 1960;174:89-92.
  4. Coleman N, Dexheimer P, DiMascio A, Redman W, Finnerty R. Deanol in the treatment of hyperkinetic children. Psychosomatics 1976;17(2):68-72.
  5. Anon. Review and outlook: Non-union jobs. Wall Street Journal, February 23, 2007, p. A10.
  6. Sharma R, Chaturvedi C, Tewari PV. Efficacy of Bacopa monniera in revitalizing intellectual functions in children. J Res Edu Ind Med 1987 Jan-Jun:1-12.

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