ADHD & Diet: Does Nutrition Affect ADHD?

Bipolar & Mood Disorders, Gifted and Talented, Parenting

As Halloween, Christmas, and other sugary holidays approach each year, there always seems to be an increase in discussions involving diet and ADHD. Our Denver mental health specialists often have these types of conversations with the parents of the patients we see. After all, it’s only natural that parents feel concerned about their child’s diet, especially when ADHD or other behavioral issues are involved.

Furthermore, speculation about how food and nutrition affect ADHD varies widely. Topics of discussion have included everything from red dye and pesticides to foods that are high in sugar. As a parent, it can be confusing to hear these varying opinions and difficult to make choices about what types of food to give to your child. In this article, we’ll discuss some of the beliefs about diet and ADHD as well as research that has been conducted on the matter.

Does Diet Affect ADHD?

At this point in time, there is no definite answer to whether or not diet directly affects ADHD. What most scientists do agree with though is that diet does not cause ADHD. Therefore, giving your child candy that contains red food dye or something similar will not cause the onset of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.

However, there does exist a large amount of research that suggests that diet does have an effect on human behavior. Certain foods are thought to cause an increase in brain performance. Therefore, what one eats may affect one’s ability to concentrate, stay alert, or process information. Additionally, food is known to have an impact on mood and directly affects serotonin and dopamine levels in the brain.

This is why it’s so important for children to eat a healthy, well-balanced diet.

Foods that Improve Brain Performance

Studies have shown that eating the following foods can improve brain performance and promote positive behavior:

  • Healthy carbohydrates: Eating healthy carbs that have a low glycemic index can ensure that the body receives a steady supply of sugar instead of too much of it at once, which can improve brain performance. Examples include apples, oatmeal, lentils, and high-fiber pastas.
  • Protein: Studies show that proteins trigger neurotransmitters that induce feelings of alertness. Many nutritionists recommend feeding children a protein-rich breakfast to start each day off right.
  • Healthy fats: Omega 3 fatty acids are known to improve brain performance and may help improve one’s ability to focus or concentrate. Examples of omega 3 rich foods include salmon, eggs, walnuts, and soybean.

While the suggestions above are meant to be helpful, parents should always consult their child’s doctor before making major adjustments to their diet. Additionally, parents should make sure that foods do not interact with their children’s medications and monitor reactions to foods that may potentially trigger unknown allergies.

Get Advice from an Expert

For more information on matters involving diet and mental health or ADHD-related topics, please contact our Denver office directly. We would be more than happy to connect you with an expert who can provide you with additional advice or answer any questions you may have.