ADD/ADHD: The Nutrition Connection

Since the late 1970’s the suspected connection between ADD/ADHD and nutrition has been explored by researchers. To date, there are so many reputable studies that indicate that there is a connection, that the influence of nutrition on ADD/ADHD can no longer be ignored. Yet, even with all of the information that is available, the connection continues to be misunderstood by nutritionists, medical professionals, and individuals who have been diagnosed with ADD/ADHD.

The Studies

There have been literally thousands of studies that have investigated the connection between nutrition and ADD/ADHD. A majority of these studies have been conducted by reputable learning institutions and medical facilities. Many of these experts have found a definitive connection between nutrition and ADD/ADHD and this connection has been documented in numerous published studies. Information on only a few of these studies follows.

The remarkable role of nutrition in learning and behavior. This study, authored by Jennifer Dani, Courtney Burrill, and Barbara Demmig-Adams found that:

“The result of this analysis is that nutrition has potent effects on brain function. It is concluded that protein, iron, iodine, and the consumption of breakfast all impact on a child’s learning capability and behaviour. Moreover, recent research has identified additional, potent roles of micronutrients, such as essential fatty acids, minerals, and vitamins, in the prevention of learning and behavioural disorders. Among the latter, this review focuses particularly on attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.”

Mental Health: Not All in the Mind—Really a Matter of Cellular Biochemistry, by Chris D. Meletis and Jason Barker.

Artificial Food Coloring Promotes Hyperactivity, by D.W. Schab. Schab and his colleagues found that “children’s behaviour did improve significantly when AFCs (artificial food colorings) were eliminated from their diet. This study was published in The Journal of Developmental & Behavioral Pediatrics.

Effects of a few food diet in attention deficit disorder, by C M Carter, M Urbanowicz, R Hemsley, L Mantilla, S Strobel, P J Graham, and E Taylor. Carter’s research discovered that “diet can contribute to behavior disorders in children” and that 76% of the children who participated in the study showed improvement after implementing an elimination diet.

Foods and additives are common causes of the attention deficit hyperactive disorder in children. During the course of this study, M. Boris and F.S. Mandel found that there was “a beneficial effect of eliminating reactive foods and artificial colors in children with ADHD. Dietary factors may play a significant role in the etiology of the majority of children with ADHD.”

The Results

Although the above studies are a mere fraction of the available documented research into nutrition and ADD/ADHD, each has found a connection between such nutritional factors as food additives, fatty acids, vitamin and mineral deficiencies and ADD/ADHD. Each study has studied subjects as they participate in elimination diets, nutritional supplementation, and behavioral observations and self-reporting. The studies were conducted using a variety of subjects. Although, because of funding requirements, the majority studies were conducted using young children (young children are the most sought-after focus of ADD/ADHD studies since the majority of new ADD/ADHD diagnoses are children), many studies were conducted using adolescents and adults.

These studies took place at a variety of reputable institutions such as Harvard University, Cornell University, Cornell Medical Center, Oxford University, etc., and are therefore backed by the reputations of these facilities.

Each study found significant improvement in the behavior of the participants once the nutritional deficiency or removal of the food or food additive causing the sensitivity, allergy, or toxic reaction had taken place. In addition to improved behavior and a reduction in what had been previously witnessed as poor attention ability and concentration, many participants were found to have increased in reading ability, motor coordination, and IQ. These improvements were probably due to the ability of the individuals to focus and stay on task.

So, what does all this mean?

It’s impossible to ignore the extensive studies, clinical trials, and personal stories that attest to the fact that, once dietary deficiencies were corrected, the symptoms of ADD/ADHD either improved or disappeared altogether. Even if more research is needed to convince the medical community that, without a doubt, it’s worthwhile to insist that non-medicinal interventions be used to treat ADD/ADHD, the evidence is overwhelming enough to indicate that individuals themselves should take the steps necessary to educate themselves and explore the possibilities of a life without medication.