Are Your Kids Eating Foods That Could Cause ADHD?

A new study from Perth’s Telethon Institute for Child Health Research has shown an association between ADHD and a ‘Western-style’ diet in adolescents.

Associate Professor Wendy Oddy, Leader of Nutrition studies at the Institute, said the study examined the dietary patterns of 1800 adolescents from the long-term Raine Study and classified diets into ‘Healthy’ or ‘Western’ patterns.

“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,” Dr. Oddy said.

“We looked at the dietary patterns amongst the adolescents and compared the diet information against whether or not the adolescent had received a diagnosis of ADHD by the age of 14 years. In our study, 115 adolescents had been diagnosed with ADHD, 91 boys and 24 girls.”

A ‘healthy’ pattern is a diet that is high in fresh fruit and vegetables, whole grains and fish. A ‘healthy’ diet is generally high in omega-3 fatty acids, which are important for brain and joint function.

A ‘Western’ diet has a trend towards fast food, chocolates, lollies, processed, fried and refined food. This diet is high in sugar, sodium, fat and saturated fat.

According to Dr. Oddy, “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.”

“We suggest that a Western dietary pattern may indicate the adolescent has a less optimal fatty acid profile, whereas a diet higher in omega-3 fatty acids is thought to hold benefits for mental health and optimal brain function.

“It also may be that a Western dietary pattern doesn’t provide enough essential micronutrients that are needed for brain function, particularly attention and concentration, or that a Western diet might contain more colours, flavours and additives that have been linked to an increase in ADHD symptoms. It may also be that impulsivity, which is a characteristic of ADHD, leads to poor dietary choices such as quick snacks when hungry.”

Emed’s Comment:

If we aren’t medicating ourselves and our kids with artificial drugs, then we are certainly drugging them with bad food choices, take-away and artificial colours, flavours and preservatives.

It has been known for quite some time that ‘junk’ food, high-fat, highly-refined or high-sodium foods can cause a multitude of health problems, like heart disease, obesity and diabetes. Artificial colours, flavours and preservatives have also had tentative links to the onset of ADHD, however this is one of the first ‘mainstream’ studies to shown a definite link.

It doesn’t take a genius to know that filling our kids full with junk food, lollies, chocolate, take-away and potato chips is a bad idea. Most of these foods contain no nutritional value. Instead, they are full of calories and fat – and is a vital ingredient in illness, disease, obesity and early diabetes.

In this day and age, most of us are time-poor, stressed and under pressure. It is generally easier to grab some ‘convenient’ food from the supermarket, or fill up with bread rolls or snack foods. This is where the habits have to stop.

The best place to start is to educate yourself. We have created an entire section on our website devoted solely to health promoting nutrition. We can guide you through the maze of ‘diets’ and ‘fads’ and help you discover a healthier way of eating. Click here for more information.

In regards to ADHD, not many other health topics will stir as much controversy and debate.

It has been known for quite some time that a high intake of artificial colours, preservatives and flavours contributes to the symptoms of ADHD. Now, this study has demonstrated that poor food choices also boosts the risk.

If your child has been diagnosed with ADD or ADHD, there are a few natural alternatives that you can use before you turn to dangerous drugs.

  • A good fish oil supplement has been shown to be highly effective in treating ADHD – even more so than Ritalin. Giving your child a premium fish oil, can effectively improve your child’s mental function, whilst also improving their general wellbeing and health?
  • A multivitamin helps to ‘fill in the gaps’ in your child’s diet. Often we do not get enough vitamins and minerals from our diet alone, so it’s important that we supplement. B-group vitamins are vital for mental health and performance, so choosing a really great multivitamin is important.
  • Support your child’s neurological development and performance This can  improve mental and physical tolerances to stress whilst also assisting healthy nervous function and development.
  • Keep your kids moving. A healthy body is important for a healthy mind.

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