ADHD Linked to 'Western Diet' of Takeout, Fried Food and Candy

Posted on Aug 27, 2010 in Health Optimization

by Katie Drummond

Yet another reason to rethink a diet heavy in fried, packaged and processed foods: It could be the culprit to blame for the childhood development of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

A study out of the Telethon Institute for Child Health Research in Perth, Australia, evaluated the diets of 1,800 teens, 115 of whom had been diagnosed with ADHD before the age of 14. 

Dietary habits were divided into two categories. A “Western diet” consisted of takeout, packaged products — in other words, plenty of saturated fat, sodium and sugar — and few fresh fruits or vegetables.

A “healthy diet,” by contrast, offered unsaturated dietary fats, fiber and whole grains.

Western diets were strongly associated with ADHD diagnosis, while researchers found no connection between healthy diets and the illness.

However, researchers have merely established a link, not the full picture. Unsaturated and omega-3 dietary fats are known to benefit brain health. But a Western diet is high in chemicals and additives, some of which are already believed to worsen ADHD symptoms. Or the impulsiveness and inattention associated with ADHD might trigger unhealthy food choices.

But to parents already coping with their child’s ADHD, the precise mechanism might be irrelevant. Already, specialized diets, like elimination regimes (cutting out sugar or dairy) or regularly timed small meals, are growing in popularity as a means of managing ADHD symptoms.