New diet gets ADHD kids under control

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A limited diet that focuses on a few selected foods may be the answer to controlling the restless behaviour of children suffering from attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder ADHD. Scientists at the ADHD Research Centre in the southern city of Eindhoven have recommended that all ADHD children be put on a specially-designed personalised diet.

Researcher Jan Buitelaar stressed the importance of following the diet plan under expert supervision. The limited diet plan involves conducting tests on each child individually to determine whether sugars, foods with artificial additives, proteins or cow’s milk bring on the impulsive behaviour associated with the disorder and then gradually adding selected foods to the diet to identify how the child reacts.  

Restricted diet

The recent research was conducted on 100 children between four and eight years old. The children were divided into two groups, the control group and the restricted diet group. The restricted diet included rice, white meat, vegetables and fruit, and eliminated wheat, tomatoes, oranges, eggs and dairy – often linked to allergies or food intolerances.  

The control group was counselled on how to eat a “healthy diet,” but was not given the restricted diet of the main test group. After five weeks, 64% of those on a restricted diet had significant improvement in symptoms, while no improvement was seen in those who were not on the restricted diet, Lidy Pelsser, MD, in Eindhoven’s ADHD Research Centre reported in .  

After five weeks, children who reacted well to the restricted diet went into a second phase in which different groups of foods were gradually added to their diet and their symptoms monitored to see if they worsened. The foods were different for each child, based on blood results.


Different metabolism

Arga Paternotte from - a national body for parents of children suffering from behavioural disorders – welcomed the results of the study but says it would be difficult to put all ADHD children on a restricted diet. She added that the tests were conducted on young children and that adolescents have a different metabolism, so more investigations were needed.

ADHD often continues beyond the childhood years, lasting into adolescence and adulthood. Symptoms can include difficulty staying focused, paying attention or controlling your behaviour as well as hyperactivity. Various studies in the past have suggested that genetic and environmental factors – including the use of alcohol and smoking during pregnancy – contribute to ADHD.

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