ADHD Associated with Western Diet

ADHD and childrenResearch from the University of Western Australia has found that ADHD in children is linked to diet, and more specifically, to the Western diet – a diet known for being rich in meats, fried foods, processed foods and sweets.

The study reviewed the dietary patterns of 1,799 children. The children’s diets were followed for fourteen years. The researchers divided the children into two basic groups based on their diet habits: A “Healthy” group and a “Western” group.

Of the 1,799 children, 115 were diagnosed with attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

Those children who ate a Western diet were more than twice as likely to have ADHD, or 2.21 times more likely.

Dr. Wendy Oddy, a professor at the University of Western Australia, was the lead author of the study. Dr. Oddy commented about the study for Perth’s Telethon Institute for Child Health Research, which participated in the study: “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.”

The “Western” diet was associated with higher intake of red meats, fried foods, fast foods, sweets and processed foods. The “healthy” diet pattern was associated with a diet high in whole grains, fresh fruit, vegetables and fish.

The ADHD group also were more likely to eat certain foods. “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.

ADHD incidence is growing, particularly among western industrialized societies. Research has found that about 5% of children between 9 and 17 have been diagnosed with ADHD, while possibly 2-4% of adults have it. Some research has estimated that up to 10% of the U.S. population may be affected by ADHD. Boys have more ADHD diagnosis than girls, at a rate of nearly 5 to 1. Some have suggested that this is the result of girls having different symptoms than boys.

Other studies have found that ADHD is linked to diet. The ADHD Research Center in Enhoven, Netherlands studied 100 children aged 4-8, who were randomly assigned to either a control group or an elimination diet group. The control group was instructed to eat a healthy diet, while the elimination group eliminated particular foods according to food challenge tests. This study found that many children’s ADHD was induced by certain foods.


Howard AL, Robinson M, Smith GJ, Ambrosini GL, Piek JP, Oddy WH. ADHD is associated with a “Western” dietary pattern in adolescents. J Atten Disord. 2011 Jul;15(5):403-11.

Pelsser LM, Frankena K, Toorman J, Savelkoul HF, Dubois AE, Pereira RR, Haagen TA, Rommelse NN, Buitelaar JK. Effects of a restricted elimination diet on the behaviour of children with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (INCA study): a randomised controlled trial. Lancet. 2011 Feb 5;377(9764):494-503.

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Case Adams is a California Naturopath with a PhD in Natural Health Sciences, and Board Certified Alternative Medicine Practitioner. He has authored 26 books on natural healing strategies. “My journey into writing about alternative medicine began about 9:30 one evening after I finished with a patient at the clinic I practiced at over a decade ago. I had just spent the last two hours explaining how diet, sleep and other lifestyle choices create health problems and how changes in these, along with certain herbal medicines and other natural strategies can radically yet safely turn ones health around. As I drove home that night, I realized I needed to get this knowledge out to more people. So I began writing about health with a mission to reach those who desperately need this information. The strategies in my books and articles are backed by scientific evidence along with wisdom handed down through traditional medicines for thousands of years.” Case connects with the elements by surfing, hiking and being a beach bum.

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