April 13th

theresa albert - my friend in food


ADHD diets


Who knew common sense was just the thing to cure ADHD? A study done at the Children’s Memorial Hospital found just that as reported in MedPage Today.  There is much debate about how to help these kids with their behavior though behavior modification techniques, supplementation, medication and diet.  I will admit that my opinions on the subject are formed at a professional distance as I did not have a child with attention issues. I have, however seen the impact of this diagnoses on children I love as well as on many classrooms the children I love have been in. I know it is not easy.

But I also know for a fact that every cell in a body is made from the fuel (food) that goes in to it. If we accept that ADHD is a founded affliction of the cells in the brain that can be modified by drugs, it follows that they can be modified (for better or worse) and/or supported by food.  Since I am willing and able to make dietary modification for each and every person in my home, it makes sense to me that one would start there.

And sure enough, it is known that diet is an established contributor and that the “development of ADHD was significantly associated with Western diets.”  I am just surprised that this is news. Is it really? Do people still not know that food can affect your mood and energy level? Why would it be any different for a child?

“Simple diets low in fats, high in whole grains, fruits and vegetables are the best alternative to medication for ADHD”. How is food an “alternative”? Isn’t it the foundation?  It is understandable that a parent would want to help their child as quickly and fully as possible. ADHD can affect every facet of childhood going well beyond the obvious of socialization and learning.  But shortcuts almost always net shortcomings.

To boot, the above “diet” is also controlling for diabetes, heart disease, cancer, hypertension… Why wouldn’t it be the thing to start with to control ADHD symptoms?  I have seen behavior issues rise and fall with blood sugar. It turns out that these studies confirm that the issue isn’t the “sugar” itself.  Avoiding blood sugar spikes with simple, healthy snacks ought to be standard to get the best out of the brain’s ability to focus.  Study away if we must but teachers have been telling us for decades that well fed kids do better and are easier to handle.


For the record, three other findings were mentioned:

  • Supplementation with Omega 3′s and 6′s showed some promise
  • Feingold type diets which included the removal of salicylates was found to be helpful in some “sensitive children”. Salicylates are found in foods like:
    1. Almonds, Apples, Apricots, Aspirin, Berries, Cherries, Cloves, Coffee, Cucumbers, Currants, Grapes, Nectarines, Oil of wintergreen, Oranges, Peaches, Peppers (bell & chilli), Pickles, Plums, Prunes, Raisins, Rose hips, Tangelos, Tangerines, Tea, Tomatoes
    2. Artificial food color
  • Elimination diets (removal of wheat, dairy and other potential allergens) showed some promise but was considered “difficult to follow”.
Theresa Albert

Theresa Albert

I love food, try to watch my weight, know more than I want to about healthy living (sometimes I wish I knew less so I wouldn’t feel so guilty when I stumble), am a daughter, sister, friend, mom and wife who worries and scurries the meals onto the table. It is for all these reasons that I completed my nutrition, RNCP designation, wrote my book, hosted my Food Network show, consult with food companies to urge them to get it right (or at least better), constantly write about it, research it, all of this so I can cut through the nutrition and food “news” clutter. Happy to share with friends!


3 Responses

    January 26, 2012 at 2:52 pm Reply

    Thanks so much Theresa for telling me what I know I should have known all along. My son suffers from ADD and/or ADHD. I know he should eat better and it is all on me, I will go home and see what I can do. I believe I am an adult ADHD sufferer and because I love candy and all things “bad”, I have passed this to my son. I do, when not at home, eat better and more colorful, my choices are vast, I need to bring these habits home…okay…stop yelling…I’ll do it…today, I swear.
    Thank you, enjoy your evening :)

      Theresa Albert
      January 26, 2012 at 2:58 pm Reply

      You are so welcome! Thanks for being open to the news. Its a tough one to swallow but if we really do have some control, we should use it! Good luck.

    Julie Dais
    January 26, 2012 at 4:09 pm Reply

    Thanks Theresa!
    If only parents wouldn’t feed their kids processed snacks at school and focus on whole foods (I know it is easy, but…)

    Here is a list of the food additives that can increase hyperactivity with ADHD kids.

    Sodium benzoate
    FD&C Yellow No. 6 (sunset yellow)
    D&C Yellow No. 10 (quinoline yellow)
    FD&C Yellow No. 5 (tartrazine)
    FD&C Red No.40 (allura red)


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