Health brief: Diet and ADHD

Early studies of diet and ADHD were designed so poorly that they could not possibly have found a link. Unfortunately these studies lead pediatricians to say that there was conclusive evidence that ADHD had no association with diet, even though children with ADHD often ate very poor diets with little or no nutritional value. Often to the pediatrician the diet was fine as long as a child was growing.

At long last some new and well-designed studies on diet and ADHD have been coming out of Europe. They prove that when children diagnosed with ADHD are placed on so-called elimination diets their hyperactivity and focus problems resolve or improve greatly. Other associated symptoms, including oppositional behavior and irritability, also improve.

These special diets eliminate foods containing dairy, wheat, corn, sugar and other problem foods for sensitive children. They can be very difficult to implement but are designed to be followed for only short periods of time as a way to identify which foods trigger symptoms for each individual child. I have been working for similar diets for a decade or longer and it is nice to see that science is finally catching up. (Lancet 2011; 377: 494-503 and Eur Child Adolesc Psychiatry 2009; 18:12-19).

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