Are hyperactive children likely to be deficient in magnesium?

Leopold D. Galland, MD
Internal Medicine
Hyperactive children become magnesium deficient for two reasons. First, like most American children, they consume far too little magnesium in the food they eat. Second, the high adrenaline levels associated with hyperactivity cause them to excrete excessive amounts of magnesium in the urine, causing magnesium deficiency by depletion. Observational studies in Germany and in France reveal a high frequency of symptomatic magnesium deficiency in hyperactive children, especially those with headaches or abdominal pain.

In my clinical practice I have found magnesium supplementation to be especially useful for sleep disturbances in children with ADHD, although the effects on hyperactive behavior are minimal. The usual dose is 100 milligrams per day for younger children and 200 milligrams for older children, taken at bedtime. If the child’s diet is low in calcium, it may be necessary to add a calcium supplement, also taken at bedtime, generally 400 milligrams for younger children and 800 milligrams for older children. There is no evidence that calcium and magnesium interfere with each other’s absorption or that a fixed ratio of calcium or magnesium must be administered to a child or on adult. A possible side effect of magnesium supplementation is diarrhea, whereas a possible side effect of calcium supplementation is constipation.

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