Landmark Trial: Food Syrup Matches Amphetamine for ADHD With Fewer Risks

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For years, stimulants like Ritalin have been viewed as essential, front-line medications for ADHD treatment. But a new landmark study reveals a shockingly effective, safer alternative derived from food

A randomized triple-blind trial published in Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice upends the common notion that only stimulant medications can treat attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).1 Researchers compared a novel treatment - sweet almond syrup - against methylphenidate (Ritalin) in children with ADHD. Shockingly, the almond-derived syrup performed just as well in reducing symptoms over 8 weeks.

Below is a summary of the study design and results:

Study Design

  • Randomized, triple-blind clinical trial comparing sweet almond syrup to methylphenidate in children with ADHD
  • 50 children aged 6-14 years with ADHD participated
  • Assigned to 8 weeks of treatment with either methylphenidate or sweet almond syrup
  • ADHD symptoms evaluated biweekly using Parent and Teacher ADHD Rating Scales

Interventions

  • Methylphenidate group: 1 mg/kg/day of methylphenidate plus placebo syrup
  • Sweet almond group: 5 mL sweet almond syrup three times daily plus placebo tablet

Key Findings

  • Sweet almond syrup and methylphenidate had similar efficacy in reducing ADHD symptoms over the 8 weeks
  • No significant differences were found between groups on Parent or Teacher ADHD Rating Scale scores
  • Both groups showed steady declines in scores over time indicating symptom improvement

Safety and Tolerability

  • Adverse effects were mild and reported more often in the methylphenidate group 
  • Decreased appetite and sleep issues most common with methylphenidate
  • Sweet almond syrup was well-tolerated with few side effects

Implications

  • Suggests sweet almond syrup may be an effective and safer alternative treatment for childhood ADHD
  • Requires further large scale studies to confirm long-term efficacy and safety

In short, this small but rigorous trial provides preliminary evidence that sweet almond syrup can reduce ADHD symptoms similarly to standard pharmacotherapy over 2 months of treatment.

Unlike Ritalin, whose side effects are extensively documented and can be extremely serious, even life-threatening in rare cases, the syrup caused virtually no adverse events. Increased appetite was the only meaningful effect. With stimulant medications, decreased appetite, mood changes, sleep disruption, abdominal discomfort, irritability, and growth delays are sadly commonplace.

The fact that a food-based product equaled these established front-line drugs in efficacy is truly groundbreaking. Given no clinical superiority of pharmacotherapy based on this head-to-head trial, the far safer profile of the syrup warrants its serious consideration. This landmark study may transform our clinical paradigm - effective treatment for recalcitrant ADHD symptoms is apparently possible without amphetamines if we open our minds and medicine cabinets to gentler, nutrition-centered options.

The medical community must grapple with these findings and their ethical implications for the ADHD epidemic. Children have been prescribed stimulants at staggering rates - over 5% of kids in the US. How many suffered adverse events for incremental, debatable benefits over safer alternatives like sweet almond syrup? This trial should sound an alarm and spur change in practice standards. It represents a call to action against stimulant overprescription. The health of vulnerable children depends on it.

To learn more about natural approaches to ADHD treatment visit our database on the subject here.


Reference

1. Motaharifard MS, Effatpanah M, Karimi M, Akhondzadeh S, Rahimi H, Yasrebi SA, Nejatbakhsh F. Effect of sweet almond syrup versus methylphenidate in children with ADHD: A randomized triple-blind clinical trial. Complement Ther Clin Pract. 2019 Aug;36:170-175. doi: 10.1016/j.ctcp.2019.07.008. Epub 2019 Jul 19. PMID: 31383435. 

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