Friday, January 13, 2012

Healthy Diet Could Help Kids with ADHD

A recent review of studies has led some researchers to conclude that a healthy diet with certain supplements could provide an alternative to drug therapy for children with attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). The information comes at a time when there is a shortage of ADHD drugs available, providing parents with an option in cases where no drugs are available to them or their child has unfortunate reactions to medication.

Dr. J. Gordon Millichap and Michelle M. Yee reviewed over 60 studies of diet-based interventions for ADHD before concluding that a low-fat diet that includes whole grains, fish, fruits, vegetables and low fat dairy products could have comparable effects on the disorder as drug therapy. They also mention that omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acid supplements seem to help as well. In the studies, typical western diets high in sugar and saturated fats were often associated with the development of ADHD. However, the researchers stipulate that it's possible that children with ADHD might naturally tend to gravitate towards junk food.

The researchers also dispelled certain dietary myths that many parents of children with ADHD subscribe to. They found that diets free of food coloring and salicylic acid (a food preservative) only helped the occasional child with the disorder. They also discovered that studies concluding that refined sugar exacerbated symptoms of ADHD were fundamentally flawed, and that no such connection could be made. Although one study they point to showed that children did not seem to get aggravated by sugar when it was preceded by a high-protein meal. Regardless of the lack of data, they note that the idea of sugar being bad for ADHD is so ingrained in society that it's unlikely it could even be dispelled at this point. In addition, the elimination diet, oligoantigenic diet (removing most allergens), and additive-free diets could not be correlated with any improvement in children and were described by the researchers as "complicated, disruptive to the household, and often impractical." Nevertheless, children with allergies in addition to ADHD did exhibit benefits to diets that restrict food coloring, preservatives and certain types of foods. Lastly, diets treating iron and zinc deficiencies were found to help a small number of children with confirmed deficiencies.

Despite the researchers' findings, they say that a healthy diet in addition to medication is the most effective way to treat children with ADHD. They mention that the data on omega-3 and omega-6 supplements promising, but there is no indication that they could effectively treat the disorder on their own. Nevertheless, children with unpleasant reactions or a lack of access to the drugs could find relief through diet-based intervention.

Do you have a child with ADHD?

'Healthy' Diet Best for ADHD Kids [ABCNews]
ADHD drug shortage [myFox]
ADHD: Diet might matter, but less than many parents think [USAToday]