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ADHD and DMAE: How it Helps

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DMAE is found useful in the treatment of ADHD and other disorders related to the brain and central nervous system.

ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) is a condition characterized by a lack of attention, hyperactivity, and reckless behavior.

There are several medications that can be prescribed to alleviate the symptoms of ADHD, however, to avoid dependence on medications, some individuals prefer other alternatives such as GABA and DMAE.

DMAE or dimethyl-amino-ethanol is a compound that is naturally produced in the human brain. It is believed to boost the levels of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine. DMAE is also found in anchovies and sardines.

DMAE History

DMAE has quite an interesting history. At the outset, medicine manufacturers were interested in selling the product as a medication for treating ADHD when studies in the 1970s showed that it helps in alleviating ADHD symptoms.

However, when further tests were deemed too expensive, the compound was packaged as a nutritional ADHD supplement, as it is naturally found in fish.

As DMAE boosts the production of brain chemicals, essential for concentration, short-term memory, and learning capacity, it may aid in the treatment of ADHD and other disorders affecting the brain and CNS.

Health food outlets sell DMAE supplements in capsule form to enhance brain power. It has been shown to have several benefits against the disruptive and impulsive behavior caused by attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

This natural ADHD supplement also aids in treating Alzheimer's disease and memory lapses, as well as some movement disorders.

What is DMAE?

Dimethylaminoethanol is not a new medication for ADHD. Although it was used to treat a different disorder in the sixties and seventies, that disorder forms a good part of what we now know as ADHD.

During those years, DMAE was known as Deanol, a pale yellow liquid given to children to improve learning, attention span, and behavioral problems. By 1959, DMAE or Deanol was confirmed to improve the test scores of children who regularly took it.

In 1974, a more rigorous study compared the efficacy of DMAE to that of Ritalin. By the next year, another study established that DMAE and Methylphenidate (the active ingredient in Ritalin) had about the same effectiveness in ADHD therapy.

However, the number of studies done on DMAE was not enough for the FDA to conclusively approve the drug for ADHD. Deanol was taken off the market but DMAE continued to be sold as a supplement for other indications.

Apart from its use in medicine, DMAE is also widely used in the manufacturing industry. It is in the production of dyes, textiles, and as a curing agent in the manufacture of synthetic products such as plastic and resins.

DMAE is also used in the pharmaceutical and cosmetic industries. It is included in topical preparations especially creams where it serves as a firming agent. DMAE tightens the skin by removing lipofuscin deposits, which are responsible for age spots, from the skin.

It also increases the production of acetylcholine.

How DMAE Works

DMAE’s ability to increase acetylcholine levels is believed to be the main reason it's beneficial for people diagnosed with ADHD. It is known to be methylated in the brain to form choline which then goes on to form acetylcholine.

Acetylcholine is an important neurotransmitter in the brain. It is a central part of the cholinergic pathways which help reduce the neuronal excitation and calm their indiscriminate firing to produce an overall calming effect.

There is little evidence that DMAE is turned into choline in the brain. But a similar reaction is confirmed in some other part of the body. The liver, for example, tries to eliminate DMAE by converting it into choline.

However, the choline produced in the liver cannot cross the blood-brain barrier and so does not contribute to the positive effect of DMAE in ADHD patients.

DMAE, on the other hand, can cross the blood-brain barrier. Therefore, it is very likely that it is converted to choline and then acetylcholine in the brain to produce its therapeutic benefits in ADHD patients.

A secondary effect of DMAE’s ability to increase choline levels in the brain is the use of choline in the production of phospholipids.

Phospholipids make up the structures of the cell membranes. In this way, DMAE protects the integrity of neuronal cells by preventing damage to them and their cellular contents.

Taking DMAE for ADHD

Study results already confirmed that DMAE supplementation helps improve attention span and alertness.  DMAE is often recommended to be combined with other vitamins and minerals known to improve ADHD symptoms.

Phosphatidylserine and phosphatidylcholine are two supplements usually taken with DMAE.

However, these two are sometimes mixed up. Some people recommend phosphatidylcholine in place of phosphatidylserine believing that the former releases choline in the brain. Ironically, it is phosphatidylserine that stimulates the production of choline in the brain. Phosphatidylcholine has no such effect.

The recommended dose of DMAE for people diagnosed with ADHD is 100 - 300 mg taken two times a day. This range is generally considered safe for most people. Some studies even use doses as high as 1600 mg/day.

However, high doses may not be well tolerated in some people. In such people, DMAE can produce opposite effects on sensitive nervous systems which may lead to headaches and drowsiness.

Therefore, ADHD patients are advised to start out with a low dose (100 mg) of DMAE and then gradually increase it, if the supplement is well tolerated, to achieve better results.

Case Studies

Several studies were conducted in the 1970s that looked at using DMAE as a treatment for the attention disorder. In a ten-week double-blind study involving 50 children (aged 6-12 yrs); DMAE was compared to a placebo.

At the end of the study, the kids taking DMAE showed significant improvements in their test scores than the ones who took a placebo.

Another ten-week double-blind study of 74 children compared DMAE with Ritalin and a placebo. Both the Ritalin and DMAE group showed significant improvements.

There are several anecdotal pieces of evidence to suggest that DMAE is beneficial to children and adults with ADHD. The supplement has shown significant results in reducing hyperactivity and boosting mental concentration.

This can prove to be a great support for kids who often become distracted, restless, and bored. Some of the other health benefits of DMAE are:

  • Increases attention span
  • Boosts energy
  • Reduces anxiety
  • Reduces violent behavior
  • Shows improvement in learning ability
  • Might increase intelligence

Taking DMAE as prescribed by a healthcare professional has shown to be safe for most individuals. However, there might be some side effects such as restlessness, insomnia, headache, depression, and irritability.

As DMAE is non-toxic, these side effects will go away when the supplement is stopped. If they persist, you must immediately contact a doctor.

If you are considering using DMAE as a supplement, it would be worthwhile consulting your healthcare expert before starting a new regime.

Although rigorous studies are lacking, some people who have tried DMAE report improved concentration, better memory, mental focus, clarity, and sleep.

There does seem to be a DMAE-ADHD connection, but larger controlled studies are required to confirm this.

Next Article: ADHD & GABA - Will it Help?