Most people take for granted their diet when considering the possible causes for ADHD (Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder).
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 diagnoses 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.
Possible ADHD causes
There have been numerous suspects for ADHD put forth over the years. We have also published a number of reports of research that link ADHD to mineral deficiencies, ADHD to sedentary behavior, and ADHD to pesticide exposure.
Yet both of these factors directly relate to diet. Toxins are most dangerous when they appear in our foods. And foods themselves can become toxins if they are manipulated into fake foods and mixed with preservatives and refined sugars.
What this all means is that our very assumptions of diet in the West may be playing a large role in the surging epidemic of ADHD.
Research 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.”
For the purpose of this study, the “Western pattern” diet was associated with higher intake of red meats, fried foods, fast foods, sweets and processed foods. The “healthy pattern” diet 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.
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 associated with “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 children with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (INCA study): a randomised controlled trial. Lancet. 2011 Feb 5;377(9764):494-503.
Case Adams is a California Naturopath and a Board Certified Alternative Medicine Practitioner with a PhD in Natural Health Sciences, and diplomas in Homeopathy, Aromatherapy, Bach Flower Remedies, Blood Chemistry, Clinical Nutritional Counseling and Colon Hydrotherapy. He has authored 26 books on natural healing strategies.