Jury still out on foods, additives, and ADHD, reports the Harvard Mental Health Letter

Diet alone probably isn't the driving force behind the behavioral and cognitive symptoms that plague children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). But recent studies have renewed interest in whether certain foods and additives might affect particular symptoms in a subset of children with ADHD, reports the June 2009 issue of the Harvard Mental Health Letter.

A recent analysis of 15 studies that examined the impact of artificial food colorings on ADHD suggested that removing these agents from the diets of children with ADHD would be about one-third to one-half as effective as treatment with methylphenidate (Ritalin). But the authors of the analysis cautioned that only a minority of children are particularly vulnerable to the effects of artificial additives. They also pointed out that it is difficult to determine which children are susceptible.

Other nutritional factors that have been linked to ADHD symptoms include a deficiency of omega-3 fats, which improve brain cell communication, and deficiencies of vitamins or minerals such as zinc, iron, magnesium, and vitamin B6. So far, though, the research has not shown that giving nutritional supplements to children with ADHD alleviates their symptoms.

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