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Nutrition: Does It Play a Role In ADHD

There’s no evidence that diet causes the behavioral disorder ADHD. However, evidence indicates that dietary changes can help to improve symptoms for certain people. In fact, a significant amount of research has looked into how diet affects ADHD.

What is ADHD?

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a neurodevelopmental disorder that includes inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsiveness.

It is one of the most common disorders that kids can have but many adults are also affected. It is unknown the exact cause of ADHD, but evidence suggests that genetics play a major role. Other causes have also been implicated, such as environmental toxicity and inadequate nutrition during infancy.

In the area of the brain responsible for self-regulation, ADHD is thought to arise from low levels of dopamine and noradrenaline. People fail to complete tasks, interpret time, remain focused, and curb inappropriate behavior when these functions are impaired.

This in turn affects their ability to work, to do well in school, and to maintain suitable relationships, which can reduce the quality of life. ADHD is not considered a curable condition and therapy is directed at reducing symptoms instead. For the most part, behavioral therapy and medicine are used.


Nutrition and Behavior

The research behind food's effects on behavior is still very new and controversial. Nevertheless, some foods do influence actions.

Caffeine, for instance, can enhance alertness, chocolate can influence mood, and alcohol can alter behavior.

Nutritional deficiencies can influence actions as well. One research concluded that, compared to placebo, taking a supplement of essential fatty acids, vitamins and minerals contributed to a substantial reduction in antisocial behavior.

Studies say that vitamin and mineral supplements can also decrease childhood antisocial activity, and it has been shown that polyunsaturated fatty acids decrease violent behavior. Since foods and supplements can influence behavior, it seems possible that symptoms of ADHD, which are mostly behavioral, may also be influenced.

A good amount of nutrition research has investigated the impact of foods and supplements on ADHD for this reason.


Mostly, two types of studies have been performed:

  • Supplement studies. These focus on supplementing with one or several nutrients.

  • Elimination studies. These focus on eliminating one or several ingredients from the diet.

Supplement Studies

Many studies have shown that children with ADHD do not eat a well-balanced diet and have nutritional deficiencies.

This has led researchers to speculate that supplements can help to improve symptoms.

Nutrition research looked at the effects of many supplements on the symptoms of ADHD, including:

  • amino acids

  • minerals

  • omega-3 fatty acids

  • vitamins

Elimination Studies

People with ADHD are more likely to have adverse food reactions, prompting speculation that it may help to improve symptoms by avoiding problematic foods.

The effects of eliminating several ingredients have been examined by studies, including:

  • allergenic foods

  • food additives

  • preservatives

  • sweeteners

To Sum It Up

Research is far from definitive regarding the impact of food on the symptoms of ADHD.

The studies listed here indicate, however that diet can have powerful behavioral effects.

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