New research published in The Lancet, suggests that a diet restricted to just a few basic ingredients could be "a valuable instrument to assess whether ADHD is induced by food." In the new study (conducted in Belgium & the Netherlands), children with ADHD were put on a 'restricted elimination diet' - containing only rice, meat, vegetables, pears and water - for five weeks. The authors found that ADHD symptoms were reduced in 78 percent of children placed on the diet.
Dr. Wolff, define ADHD a little more clearly for us?
- ADHD is estimated to affect around 3 to 5 percent of children worldwide. Children with ADHD are excessively restless, impulsive and distracted, and often have difficulties at home and in school. There is no cure, but the symptoms can be kept in check by a combination of behavioral therapy, adjunctive interventions, and clinically prescribed medicines.
Can other things cause an attention problem, but not be ADHD?
- Yes - there are hundreds of possible things that can cause an attention problem. Learning struggles, family dynamics, medical concerns, focal auditory or visual challenges, fatigue, diet, etc can all result in concerns. Unfortunately, there is one focal diagnosis for an attention concern (ADHD), but that does not mean that all individuals with an attention concern require a medication to address the concern.
What EXACTLY does this study share with those parents that might have a child with ADHD?
- Parents have long suspected that sugary foods might be a culprit in inducing symptoms, but there's not a lot of evidence to support this theory.
- In this study, children aged 4 to 8 years with ADHD were divided into two groups and given either a restrictive diet or a general healthy diet for five weeks.
- The restrictive diet began with a diet called the "few foods diet," which includes just rice, meat, vegetables, pears and water. The researchers then complemented this diet with certain foods, such as potatoes, fruits and wheat. The restrictive diet lasted for five weeks.
- 78% had a reduction in their ADHD symptoms.
How does a diet play into a child's every day well-being?
- The key is parental involvement - teaching children right and wrong nutritional choices, and vital physical activity.
- Parents, as this study showed, need to be actively involved in monitoring how their kids feel and act.
- It's back to the old adage - you are what you eat (and drink).
With parents packing school lunches on a daily basis, what advice would you give them?
- Our culture has emphasized that bigger is better. There are limits. Work with your child to pack their lunch and make nutritional choices. Take them to the grocery store with you and talk about these choices.
- Seek healthy alternatives - water instead of juice boxes, pretzels instead of chips, etc.
- Review your meal plan at home to ensure that children are getting a balance of proteins, carbohydrates, fruits and veggies, etc. This is a challenge in our "fast food" society."
Are there other options beside or in addition to diet?
- More alternatives are being researched. There are interventions like Neurofeedback and Cogmed that are either being supported by the American Academy of Pediatrics or other research. Herbal supplements, food dyes, exercise, and adding variety to a day to hold attention long are beginning to be researched after long being neglected because of the emphasis on medication.
If parents suspect their child might be ADHD, what's the next step?
- Talk with their pediatrician.
- Be sensitive to "medications" always being the answer.
- The team at BRAINS has seen numerous cases of children that just need to understand what their body is doing - once they understand, they can better control the entire process.
BRAINS: Behavioral Resources amd Institute for Neuropsychological Services