CHOOSING A DIET FOR CHILDREN WITH ADHD

ADHD written on chalk board

A healthy diet is important for management of all children including those with ADHD and autism. Among other factors, adverse food reactions- food allergy, non-immunologic food effects (intolerances and toxicities) – and nutrition deficiencies have been proposed as triggers of ADHD [Sylvia Cruchet et al.]. Pharmacological therapy has proven to be efficacious in controlling disruptive behavior and inattention in patients with ADHD, with a response of over 70% [Lancet 2016]. However, these medications have frequent adverse reactions, and some parents are also concerned about long-term side effects, preferring non-pharmacological approaches, including nutritional interventions

A variety of dietary approaches have been attempted for treatment of ADHD. However only three: education in healthy nutritional habits, specific nutrient supplementation and elimination diets have been subjected to clinical tries. Indeed, some studies have documented deficiencies in micronutrients such as iron, zinc, and magnesium in children with ADHD compared to healthy controls. Several vitamins, including vitamin D, may also be insufficient or deficient in ADHD patient. It is therefore important to have a complete nutritional assessment to detect potential deficits and start treatment whenever necessary.

Healthy nutritional habits

In children with ADHD, restriction of sugar and sweeteners and elimination of food colorants or preservatives improves behavioral and attention performance. Data suggests improved attention, behavior and wellbeing among children ADHD who are provided with a healthy diet.

Micronutrient supplementation

To prevent micronutrient deficiencies, it is important to provide variety and micronutrient rich diet. In case of deficiencies, it is also crucial to get treatment, and in children, who do not ingest a balanced diet and/or have stimulant-medication-related appetite suppression, supplement with multivitamins/minerals, of course guided by a specialist.

Elimination diets

To improve behavior and attention performance in children with ADHD, sugar and sweeteners, diet colorants or preservatives should be restricted. Other elimination diets should be restricted to children with specific allergies to the eliminated food.

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