A top ADHD expert explains the impact of nutrition, diet, vitamins, and other non-drug ADHD treatments.
You’ve heard that sugar causes attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADD ADHD), haven’t you? And didn’t you read somewhere that vitamins may work just as well as medication for ADHD treatment? These days, there's a tremendous amount of information — and misinformation — about non-drug ADHD treatments.
To separate fallacy from fact, ADDitude’s Carl Sherman, Ph.D., spoke about ADHD treatment with one of the nation’s top experts on ADHD, Andrew Adesman, M.D., chief of developmental and behavioral pediatrics at Schneider Children’s Hospital in New Hyde Park, New York, and a member of the CHADD professional advisory board.
Is there a link between sugar and ADHD?
People blame sugar for all sorts of things. But there’s no reason to think that it causes ADHD or makes symptoms worse. Controlled studies — the ones that compare kids who are on and off sugar — haven’t found any link to attention or behavior in school-age children. In preschool children, there may be a weak association between sugar and ADHD-like symptoms. If parents feel that diet affects their preschooler’s behavior, it might make sense to try restricting sugar to see what happens.
Although I advise parents to consider limiting sweets for other reasons, including good nutrition and dental hygiene, I do not see this as an effective treatment for ADHD.
How about dyes and other food additives, or food allergies?
ADHD isn’t caused by an allergic reaction to food, or anything in food, including additives. The evidence to support elimination diets or tests for food sensitivities simply doesn’t exist. Although it would be nice if foods had fewer chemical additives and less artificial coloring, parents of children with ADHD should not let a general bias against “unnatural” food ingredients guide their approach to treating ADHD. Dietary interventions are difficult to impose and unlikely to bring any benefit.
On the positive side, can vitamins help control symptoms of ADHD?
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