Dr. Joel Fuhrman: Diet’s Role in Preventing and Treating ADHD in Children
This article was contributed by Dr. Joel Fuhrman. Dr. Fuhrman is a best-selling author, nutritional researcher and board certified family physician specializing in nutritional medicine. Learn more by visiting his informative website at DrFuhrman.com and his blog at Diseaseproof.com, and following Dr. Fuhrman on Facebook and Twitter.
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is the most common neurobehavioral disorder diagnosed in children, and its prevalence is growing. Between 2003 and 2007, there was a 22% increase in ADHD prevalence in the United States – today, about 9.5% of school-age children have ADHD.1
ADHD is characterized by restlessness, difficulty focusing, poor impulse control, distractibility, and in some cases overactivity; plus these symptoms have significant negative consequences on the child’s academic performance, social skills, and relationships with family members, teachers, and peers. In addition, ADHD is often accompanied by learning disorders, discipline problems, anxiety, and/or depression.2
ADHD is a complex disorder of the brain that is believed to be caused by a combination of genetic and environmental factors. 3, 4 Smoking and alcohol use during pregnancy, micronutrient deficiencies, excessive television watching early in life, and inadequate omega-3 fatty acid intake are a few of the environmental factors that increase risk.3, 5
Nutrition and ADHD
Poor nutrition is a significant concern for attentional problems and ADHD – here are some of the dietary factors that have been linked to ADHD risk in scientific studies:
- High sugar intake is also associated with hyperactive behavior and ADHD.6, 7
- Inadequate micronutrient intake. Supplementation to correct micronutrient deficiencies has been shown to improve ADHD symptoms.2, 8
- A low-nutrient diet high in processed foods and soft drinks at age 4 ½ has been associated with hyperactivity in children at age 7.9 Similarly, a “western” dietary pattern has also been associated with ADHD in 14-year-olds.10
- Food additives and dyes: many colored foods are marketed to children, and hyperactivity in children following ingestion of food dyes is well documented in placebo-controlled studies.6, 11 Furthermore, a 2004 meta-analysis of 16 studies in children who were already hyperactive showed that their hyperactive behavior increased after ingesting food colorings.12 Read more.
- There is preliminary evidence that certain pesticides (called organophosphates) commonly found on some fruits are associated with ADHD.13 Read more.
- Omega-3 fatty acids (especially DHA) are the building blocks a child needs to build a healthy brain. Insufficient omega-3 levels are common in children with ADHD, and there is evidence that omega-3 supplementation, especially in combination with the omega-6 fatty acid gamma-linolenic acid (GLA; found in borage oil and evening primrose oil) improves behavior and ADHD symptoms. 14, 15
You can read more health tips on Dr. Fuhrman’s website at Diseaseproof.com!