Diet Doubles ADHD Risk

A new study from Perth’s Telethon Institute for Child Health Research confirms an association between Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and a “Western-style” diet in adolescents. ADHD is the most diagnosed childhood disorder and approximately 5 percent of children have ADHD. It’s more common in boys. The research findings were published online in the international Journal of Attention Disorders.

Leader of Nutrition studies at the Institute, Associate Professor Wendy Oddy, said the study examined the dietary patterns of 1800 adolescents from the long-term Raine Study and classified diets into Healthy or Western patterns.

A healthy diet was deemed to be one high in fresh fruit and vegetables, whole grains and fish.

A Western pattern in diet is one where take-out and other fast foods, sweets, fried and refined processed foods dominate.

Kids with ADHD can have learning and behavior problems and often exhibit impulsive behavior.

“We found a diet high in the Western pattern of foods was associated with more than double the risk of having an ADHD diagnosis compared with a diet low in the Western pattern, after adjusting for numerous other social and family influences,” Dr Oddy said.

“When we looked at specific foods, having an ADHD diagnosis was associated with a diet high in takeaway foods, processed meats, red meat, high fat dairy products and confectionary,” Dr Oddy said.

“We suggest that a Western dietary pattern may indicate the adolescent has a less optimal fatty acid profile, whereas a diet higher in omega-3 fatty acids is thought to hold benefits for mental health and optimal brain function.

“It also may be that the Western dietary pattern doesn’t provide enough essential micronutrients that are needed for brain function, particularly attention and concentration, or that a Western diet might contain more colors, flavors and additives that have been linked to an increase in ADHD symptoms. It may also be that impulsivity, which is a characteristic of ADHD, leads to poor dietary choices such as quick snacks when hungry.”

While this study sheds light on this ever-increasing problem, the diet connection in ADHD is not new. More than 30 years ago, my journey to whole foods began with my third daughter, Jenny. Out of desperation, I found help with Dr. Feingold’s work. He pioneered a food connection to hyperactivity. Feingold found that 70 percent of children improved or completely lost the ADD diagnosis when changes were made in diet and additives such as artificial colors and flavors and petrochemical preservatives BHS and BHT were eliminated. Also sugar is kept to a minimum. For more information about the Feingold Diet, Click Here.

Success to transforming a child’s diet rests on the ability of parents to clean out process foods from their kitchens and teach their children how to appreciate whole foods. If you have a picky eater who refuses to eat whole foods (or want to avoid every having one), Baby Bites: Transforming a Picky Eater into a Healthy Eater is a valuable asset. Click Here for a synopsis.

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