Latest Info on ADHD Could Disappoint a Lot of Moms


candyIt may be easy to blame artificially colored, additive-filled cupcakes, candies, and other brightly hued, sugary treats for the behavior of kids with ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) -- who really wants their kids to eat a lot of that stuff anyway? But according to a new report published in the journal Pediatrics, in most cases, eliminating artificial food dyes and other additives from the diets of kids with ADHD probably won't rid them of symptoms. In fact, the "elimination" diets popular with parents of kids with ADHD might be more trouble than they're worth, researchers have concluded.

However, although elimination diets probably won't erase signs of ADHD, giving your kid a healthy diet isn't the worst idea -- and may even prove useful with other treatments, experts say.

Specifically, you should make sure your kid has a steady intake of healthy foods throughout the day -- including especially fish, vegetables, fruits, and low-fat dairy -- and cut back on (though not necessarily eliminate) sugary treats, processed foods, red meat, and dairy that's high in fat. You could also supplement your kid's diet with omega-3s from fish oil. Of course, this isn't terribly different from what's recommended for all kids.

In other words, there is no special magic diet bullet for kids with ADHD. I imagine this must come as both welcome and unwelcome news for families struggling to find a solution for ADHD. Sure, they can stop checking labels quite as vigilantly and let their kid eat a fistful of jellybeans now and then (which means the kids themselves will probably welcome the new research), but on the other hand, the no-easy-fix factor is a pretty big drag. I'm sure there are plenty of families who had hoped adjusting their kid's diet would provide the solution for all their woes.

Really, wouldn't we all like to think that? Many of us spend a lot of time focused on our kids' diets in hopes that healthy eating will provide all the answers and guarantee them good health. At least what we feed them is something we can control! And while a healthy diet can of course do a lot, alas, there's much about the world and our kids' health that's out of our control. In a way, this is one of the toughest lessons of parenthood. And one we parents learn -- sometimes the hard way -- again and again and again.

What do you think of the report finding that changing a child's diet is usually not enough to eliminate symptoms of ADHD?


Image via merfam/Flickr

behavior, food


To add a comment, please log in with

Use Your CafeMom Profile

Join CafeMom or Log in to your CafeMom account. CafeMom members can keep track of their comments.

Join CafeMom or Log in to your CafeMom account. CafeMom members can keep track of their comments.

Comment As a Guest

Guest comments are moderated and will not appear immediately.

organ... organicyogalove

The poorly done "Study" is bull honkey and favors the drug companies of course. Thousands of parents have noticed a dramatic increase in their childrens behaviors when they did elimination diets, that should be proof enough but unfortunately it doesnt help big pharma so they come out with this crap. 

banan... banana-bear

^^^ I totally agree. As a parent who has DONE the elimination diet, IT WORKS. And let us not forget the high percentage of children who don't actually have the disorder and are just used as cash machines from the drug companies. If a child does not have ADHD, an elimination diet will not work to "rid them of the symptoms". They are likely just active kids. And what's so wrong with that? Geez, let kids be kids already!

nonmember avatar Cheviot

The first two comments on this article completely ignore the science involved based on their preconceived ideas. Remember: data is not the plural of anecdote. Just because you found something to be effective or your friend thought it worked doesn't mean it's really a reliable therapy for everyone. In science we can't say, "well two of my friends put their kids on special diets and their symptoms improved so it must work!" We have to carefully evaluate behavior with proper controls.

Also, for anyone interested in the science: this paper contains no "new" data, but rather is a review of many studies evaluating different types of diets and their effects on ADHD symptoms. The paper's conclusion is not "diets do not work at all," instead the data indicated that in most kids special diets do not make a large enough impact on symptoms to warrant major lifestyle changes to accomodate diets.

Finally, while pharmaceutical companies do a lot of sketchy stuff, they didn't do this. The researchers involved are not supported by any drug companies. Also, drug companies would absolutely love it if the diets actually worked. Why? Because diets are difficult and disruptive, and if they impacted symptoms drug companies could find ways to make drugs that mimic the action of these special diets. Then they could sell pills that many families would prefer over a burdensome diet.

nonmember avatar lyn

I do believe some diets work i have my child on one and i have heard nothing but good comments. He was on the verge of getting in school suspension getting wrote up from teachers the bus driver. Know one wanted to baby sit for us not even grandparents. Then i read about this diet talking about food allergies and alot of other parents with the same problems with their kids. And how this diet helped i was not sure but we tried it we couldn't be happier with the results. Alot of kids have greatly improved from this diet. I have recommended it to other parents and will continue to do so. Does my child still get into trouble of coarse he does he is a 8 year old boy. But now he is only in trouble every once in a while.

nonmember avatar Erin

I have one child with ADD, one with Aspergers and ADHD and one with ADHD only. I tried elimination diets with my oldest child, it did nothing! All three boys are on meds and we have seen improvement in behavior and grades. To the commentor who pointed out that these diets will not help children who do not have ADD/ADHD, guess what, neither will the prescribed meds. STIMULANTS are used to treat ADD/ADHD, if these are given to a child who does not have either one, then their behavior will worsen, not improve. Other than people with food allergies, elimination diets of any type are not a one-size-fits-all fix for the issues.

nonmember avatar Teri

Ugh...when will researchers and scientists get it through their heads that they can recommend fish, tree nuts, and low-fat dairy all they like, but they are fatal for a significant chunk of the population simply cannot eat them or even have them in the house. Food allergies affect 1 out of every 13 children. 7.6% of children. That doesn't just mean the children themselves can't have the food; often the foods they're allergic to have to be banned from the entire house for fear of cross-contamination. Meaning the oh-so-popular Mediterranean diet is likely to be absolutely rubbish for every member of an allergic child's family. Sorry, Mrs. Obama. And this doesn't even consider adults who are allergic, many times fatally allergic to seafood, so even if the children aren't allergic, you STILL can't have it in the house. For once, I'd love to see dietary advice given with some kind of backup for those families dealing with food allergies, instead of ignoring the problem and treating everyone as if they're clones of each other.

jayde... jaydensmom1726

change in diet can be effective some times but not for everyone

nonmember avatar momof7

My parents tried an elimination diet with me, it actually caused more problems than anything else. Being deprived of all th goodies that I saw the other kids eating on a daily basis caused some major food issues with me that took me a long time to over come.

Bmat Bmat

It is bad news.  Being able to avoid drugs would be a big advantage of being able to control the problem with the diet.

mamivon2 mamivon2

OMG those are soo old news.. even my mom ca 25y ago knew that. I hardly ever was allowed to any kind of sweets... nothing new to me at all

1-10 of 72 comments 12345 Last