A restrictive diet reduced hyperactivity for some children in a Dutch ADHD study, but pediatricians punched holes in the researchers' conclusions. Image: CC malias/Flickr

Diet treatments for ADHD as an alternative to medication have raised hope as well as controversy. A recent study demonstrated a possible connection between an ADHD diet and improvement in ADHD symptoms. But attention deficit hyperactivity disorder experts question the study and say parents of ADHD kids can’t rely on diet alone to mitigate the disorder.

Results of the ADHD diet study

An elimination diet could be an effective tool in the treatment of ADHD, according to a study published in The Lancet on Thursday. Dutch researchers concluded that a diet eliminating foods commonly associated with food allergies decreased ADHD symptoms in 64 percent of the children in the study. The ADHD diet, based on rice, white meat and vegetables, was administered to 41 children for five weeks. An improvement in ADHD symptoms was evident in 32 of them. In the second phase of the study, the children were fed what are assumed to be ADHD trigger foods and most of them relapsed. A control group of 50 children ate a standard healthy diet and no reduction in hyperactivity was noted.

Pediatricians add their dose of reality

The results of the ADHD diet study led the researchers to suggest that an elimination diet could become part of the standard treatment regimen for ADHD. However, most pediatricians aren’t convinced that the benefits of an elimination diet are worth the effort. An ADHD diet could also make children subject to nutritional deficiencies. Because some children with allergies show ADHD-like behavior, pediatricians commenting on the study said the improvements documented were likely allergy-related. Other pediatricians questioned the methodology of the ADHD study, which had no independent observers.

The ADHD-allergy connection

Processed foods high in sugar have long been suspected as ADHD triggers, but according to the National Institute of Mental Health, no concrete evidence supports that assumption. Because some children have allergic reactions to some foods, such as asthma, skin rashes and diarrhea, theories have been raised that foods can also adversely affect their brain chemistry. However, because the Dutch study only lasted five weeks, it couldn’t definitively answer those questions or specify which foods should be avoided. As far as a “standard” of care for ADHD, most pediatricians believe it all depends on the individual child.


CNN: http://pagingdrgupta.blogs.cnn.com/2011/02/03/does-adhd-come-from-foods/?npt=NP1

ABC News: http://abcnews.go.com/Health/Allergies/adhd-food-allergy-case-restricting-diet/story?id=12832958&page=3

Business Week: http://www.businessweek.com/lifestyle/content/healthday/649603.html

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