Our son was recently diagnosed with ADHD. We are interested in trying diet modification to control his symptoms but have found conflicting information on the Internet regarding diet and ADHD. Are there any reputable sources on this subject?
Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is characterized by inattentiveness, hyperactivity and impulsivity. Untreated ADHD can lead to academic and behavioral problems.
Traditional therapies for ADHD include medication, behavioral therapy and classroom modification. Stimulants are the most common type of medication used to treat ADHD. Currently, no diet therapies have been shown to be as effective as medication. Diet, however, can play an important role in the management of ADHD.
A February 2012 article titled "The Diet Factor in Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder" (Pediatrics), provides an extensive review of the available literature on dietary methods used to treat ADHD. The article specifically looks at hypoallergenic/elimination diets, omega supplements, iron and zinc supplements, and the role that sugar, dyes and preservatives play in ADHD. Omega-3 and -6 fatty acid supplementation demonstrated significant promise in the treatment of ADHD.
Elimination or hypoallergenic diets are based on a belief that children may have certain food triggers for their behavior. Although these diets were not shown to be universally effective, there were isolated cases that resulted in improvement. Elimination diets are very restrictive and should be monitored by a physician or dietician.
One Australian study cited in the article identified a link between ADHD and a "Western" diet. Certain foods (fast food, red meat, processed meats, potato chips, high-fat dairy products and soft drinks) were linked to a higher incidence of ADHD. The preferred diet of fish, vegetables, legumes and whole grain was associated with lower rates of ADHD. Because a diet that is high in omega-3 fatty acids, fiber and anti-oxidants contributes to overall health, this is a good place to start when considering diet modification for a child with ADHD.