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Diet Influences ADHD Symptoms in Children

fruits and vegetables

Diet Influences ADHD Symptoms in Children


We've read about how certain food and nutrients can help with some health conditions. Well, it seems attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) isn't left out of it.

A new study has found that children who consume more fruits and vegetables have less severe symptoms of ADHD. These foods can help reduce their inattention issues.

Without a doubt, this is one more reason to encourage our kids to snack up more on fruits and vegetables.

The study was published in the journal Nutritional Neuroscience.


The Study Reports

A group of researchers asked parents of 134 kids with ADHD symptoms aged 6-12 to answer a questionnaire about the typical foods their children ate over 90 days.

Another questionnaire asked parents questions about the intensity of their kids' inattentiveness, which is a quintessential ADHP symptom.

Study results show that kids who ate more fruits and vegetables had less severe symptoms of inattention.

It is now pretty clear that one way to reduce ADHD symptoms is by consuming a healthy diet rich in fruits and vegetables.

The study was part of a larger one, the Micronutrients for ADHD in Youth (MADDY) Study. The research looked at the effectiveness of a 36-ingredient vitamin and mineral supplement in treating ADHD.

The MADDY Study discovered that kids who used the supplements were three times more likely to show improvements when undergoing ADHD treatment than those who used a placebo.

But that's not even all.

In fact, a poor diet may be a culprit in children's behavior.

One recent study prior to this -- but involving the same kids -- showed that children who had more food shortages also had more severe signs of irritability and outbursts of anger. These are typical of emotional dysregulation, a core symptom of ADHD.

The three studies (that on fruits and vegetables, the MADDY Study, and the one with food shortages) all point to the same fact: diet is a crucial factor influencing ADHD. A healthy diet containing all the nutrients a child needs can help to reduce their ADHD symptoms.


How are Diet and ADHD Related?

It's not a surprising question to ask. And there may be a logical answer.

Researchers believe that ADHD is related to low levels of certain neurotransmitters in the brain. Vitamins and minerals stimulate the body to produce those neurochemicals, thereby promoting better brain function.

On the other hand, food insecurity can have a reverse effect. You see, people tend to get angrier and moodier when hungry. This is even more pronounced in kids with ADHD.

"If they're not getting enough food, it could make their symptoms worse," said Irene Hatsu, co-author of the study.

In addition, parents who cannot provide enough food for their kids tend to be upset about it. This can create unhealthy tension in the family, triggering ADHD in affected children.


The Bottom Line

The MADDY Study is the first to examine the relationship between diet and ADHD symptoms. It's a great step because clinicians can now also consider how food plays a role when trying to treat them for ADHD.

Indeed, some conditions can be managed simply by improving the diet quality of the patient.

Satu H. Woodland, PMHCNS-BC, APRN Satu H. Woodland, PMHCNS-BC, APRN Satu Woodland is owner and clinician of Hope Mental Health, an integrative mental health practice located at Bown Crossing in Boise, Idaho. She sees children, adolescents, and adults.  Ms. Woodland with her background in nursing, prefers a holistic and integrative approach to mental health care that addresses the mind and body together. While Ms. Woodland provides medication management services in all her patients, she believes in long-lasting solutions that include a number of psychotherapies, namely cognitive behavioral therapy, exposure and response prevention therapy, attention to lifestyle, evidenced based alternative psychiatric care and spirituality. If you’d like to gain control over your mental health issues, call Hope Mental Health at 208-918-0958, or use the online scheduling tool to set up an initial consultation.

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