Diet Might Have Some Effect on ADHD
JENIFER GOODWIN | HEALTHDAY NEWS
THERE’s limited evidence that any particular diet or supplement helps kids with attention- deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), but at least some research suggests that omega-3 fatty acids may help while fatty “Western-style” diets do these children no favours.
Researchers from Children’s Memorial Hospital in Chicago reviewed previous studies on diets and supplements that have been tried in children with ADHD. Among the diets tested: restricting sugar, which some parents believe worsens hyperactivity; avoiding food containing additives and preservatives, known as the “Feingold diet”; an “elimination diet” that avoids foods most often implicated in food allergies; and supplementing with omega-3 fatty acids, such as fish oil capsules.
Little research supports the idea that sugar or artificial sweeteners affect children’s behavior, according to the review. Nor is there much evidence from controlled trials to support the Feingold diet, which first became popular in the 1970s and advocates avoiding food that contains red and orange dyes and preservatives (including apples, grapes and lunch meats).
Yet, some studies have suggested some kids with ADHD benefit from an elimination, also known as a hypoallergenic, diet. But that typically means forgoing cow’s milk, cheese, wheat cereal, eggs, chocolate, nuts and citrus foods, which can be tough on the child and on the family, said study author Dr. J. Gordon Millichap, a professor emeritus at Northwestern University Medical School and neurologist at Children’s Memorial Hospital in Chicago.
Moreover, the results of studies on hypoallergenic diets have been mixed. “We find the hypoallergenic diet might be effective, but difficult for families to manage them,” Millichap said.
One study by Australian researchers suggested that kids who ate a typical “Western-style” diet that’s high in fat, salt and refined sugars had a higher risk of ADHD than kids who had a healthier diet that was rich in fish, vegetables, fruit and whole grains and that contained lots of fiber, folate and omega-3 fatty acids.
Dr Roberto Lopez-Alberola, an associate professor and chief of pediatric neurology at University of Miami School of Medicine, said he strongly advocates children with ADHD following such a healthier diet and avoiding dyes, preservatives and other additives.
Though the precise biological mechanism hasn’t yet been uncovered, Lopez-Alberola believes the increase in obesity rates and in ADHD are not unrelated, and unhealthy modern diets may be contributing to the problem.
“I am a firm believer that we ultimately are what we eat, and unfortunately as a result of our poor Western diet, we see this in the increase in the rate of obesity, particularly in the young population,” Lopez-Alberola said.