Lower plasma concentrations of short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs) in patients with ADHD
Journal article, 2022

Short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs), produced during bacterial fermentation, have been shown to be mediators in the microbiota-gut-brain axis. This axis has been proposed to influence psychiatric symptoms seen in attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). However, there is no report of plasma SCFA concentrations in ADHD. The aim of this study was to explore the plasma concentrations of SCFAs in children and adults with ADHD and the possible factors that could influence those levels. We collected data on age group, sex, serum vitamin D levels, delivery mode, body mass index, diet, medication and blood samples from 233 ADHD patients and 36 family-related healthy controls. The concentrations of SCFAs and the intermediary metabolite succinic acid, were measured using liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry. Adults with ADHD had lower plasma concentrations of formic, acetic, propionic and succinic acid than their healthy family members. When adjusting for SCFA-influential factors among those with ADHD, children had lower concentrations of formic, propionic and isovaleric acid than adults, and those who had more antibiotic medications during the last 2 years had lower concentrations of formic, propionic and succinic acid. When adjusting for antibiotic medication, we found that among children, those currently on stimulant medication had lower acetic and propionic acid levels, and adults with ADHD had lower formic and propionic acid concentrations than adult healthy family members. In all, our findings show lower-than-normal plasma concentrations of SCFAs in ADHD explained in-part by antibiotic medication, age and stimulant medication. Whether or not this is of clinical significance is yet to be explored.


Antibiotic medication

Psychostimulant medication





Liu L. Yang

Huazhong University of Science and Technology

Karolinska University Hospital

Karolinska Institutet

Miranda Stiernborg

Karolinska University Hospital

Karolinska Institutet

Elin Skott

Karolinska Institutet

Karolinska University Hospital


Therese Gillberg

Karolinska University Hospital

Karolinska Institutet

Rikard Landberg

Chalmers, Biology and Biological Engineering, Food and Nutrition Science

Mai Britt Giacobini

Karolinska Institutet


Catharina Lavebratt

Karolinska University Hospital

Karolinska Institutet

Journal of Psychiatric Research

0022-3956 (ISSN) 18791379 (eISSN)

Vol. 156 36-43

Subject Categories



Nutrition and Dietetics





More information

Latest update