Eating more healthily could improve behaviour of children with ADHD, study finds
Simply eating more healthily can improve the behavior of children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder if therapy and medication fails to work, a study has revealed.
Researchers said that there was conflicting evidence on the impact of supplements and restricted diets for people suffering from ADHD – and in some cases they were no better than the placebo effect.
The report, by doctors at Northwestern University Medical School in Chicago, argued nutritional intervention should therefore be considered as a secondary approach to treating the condition.
Healthy option: Eating a balanced diet could help improve the behaviour of children with ADHD if they don't respond to therapy or drug treatment, a study has found (file picture)
It said: 'Supplemental diet therapy is simple, relatively inexpensive, and more acceptable to patient and parent.
'Public education regarding a healthy diet pattern and lifestyle to prevent or control ADHD may have greater long-term success.'
The study reviewed research published on the sugar-restricted, additive-free Feingold Diet, megavitamin therapies, omega-3 fatty acid supplementation and the suspected link between ADHD and a 'Western-style' high-fat, low-fibre diet.
Three to five per cent of U.S. schoolchildren – around 5million youths – are diagnosed with ADHD. Symptoms include hyperactive behaviour, inability to pay attention and impulsivity.
It is often treated with stimulant medications, including the controversial Ritalin drug.
The causes of the condition are unknown, although studies have pointed to hereditary factors as well as social and environmental influences. Eating high-sugar and high-fat foods are also thought to exacerbate the symptoms.
Healthy diet: Mackerel fish, rich in omega 3 oils. The study has found conflicting evidence of the success of dietary supplements for children with ADHD
Interventions including giving iron supplements or cutting out additives and food dyes have soared in popularity in recent years, but the study says there is little evidence to back these claims.
For many parents, simply paying more attention to feeding their children a healthy diet rich in fish, vegetables, fruit, legumes and whole-grains is likely to help, the study said.
'A greater attention to the education of parents and children in a healthy dietary pattern, omitting items shown to predispose to ADHD, is perhaps the most promising and practical complementary or alternative treatment of ADHD,' it added.
Andrew Adesman, chief of developmental and behavioural pediatrics at Steven and Alexandra Cohen Children's Medical Center in New York, said: 'We have more questions than answers.
'It is unfortunate that more research is not being done to examine the role of dietary interventions for the treatment of ADHD.
'Since some of these nutritional interventions cannot be parented, drug companies are not willing to underwrite the costs of the needed research.'