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Special Education

Diet’s Effect on ADHD Must Be Studied Further

By Nirvi Shah — April 30, 2012 1 min read

A new review of research about the effect of diet on children with ADHD finds that there are potential benefits in adjusting what these kids eat, but there is still much to learn.

Researchers from the University of Copenhagen, along with child and adolescent psychiatrists, note that several studies show fatty acids from fatty fish can moderate the symptoms of ADHD, others find there is no effect. (The report is only available in Danish.)

Elimination diets are also promising,” said Professor Kim Fleischer Michaelsen of the university’s department of human nutrition. “These look at whether there is anything in the diet which the children cannot consume without adverse side effects. However, we still lack knowledge about which children with ADHD benefit from dietary changes, how positive the effect is in the long term and what the changes mean for children’s health.”

In recent years, there’s been a lot of buzz about whether specialized diets can affect the symptoms of ADHD more than drugs. The idea that food could calm hyperactivity, fidgeting and inattentiveness seemed very promising.

But Fleischer is not the first to conclude that diet may not be the panacea some want it to be. However, some food additives may exacerbate the condition’s symptoms.

Also, notes Tine Houmann, a consultant at the university’s Centre for Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, “there are different types of ADHD, and the disturbance is probably due to both genetic and environmental factors. We know that children with ADHD react very differently to both medication and dietary changes.”

The research review was financed by the Danish Ministry of Social Affairs and Integration.

“It is crucial that bigger studies on dietary changes are conducted on children with ADHD to see how effective this is and how long the benefits last,” Michaelsen said, stressing that parents should always seek professional advice before changing their children’s diet.

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A version of this news article first appeared in the On Special Education blog.