While it’s widely known and well documented that a poor diet can play a direct role in diminished, long-term overall health (think diabetes and heart disease), considerably less concrete evidence exists on food and its immediate effects on behavior - especially when it comes to children, young adults, and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). On one hand, a few studies and some anecdotal evidence from parents seem to indicate that what a child eats can have a direct effect on his or her conduct and demeanor. On the other hand, many respected medical institutions still reserve final judgment on the matter due to lack of compelling evidence.
Food Dyes, Preservatives, and ADHD
One point of contention is focused on the food additives rather than the food. The dyes and preservatives in highly processed snacks and drinks have long been targets of criticism from both parents and consumer advocates, alike.
In fact, one particular British study’s conclusions actually prompted the UK Food Standards Agency to call for the removal of half a dozen different colorings from their foods. Though the researcher’s estimates of the dyes’ effects were relatively minor, there were actually notable behavioral changes in both children with and without ADHD after consuming the dyes, and that alone was enough to spur change in the UK.
Other studies have concluded that simply eliminating artificial food dyes and additives from the diets of kids diagnosed with ADHD may be as much as half as effective as treating the child with drugs such as Ritalin.
Better Diet And Better Behavior
While removing the food dyes from your child’s diet may help dampen ADHD symptoms, implementing a healthier all-around diet will certainly benefit them short term and in the long run. More fruits, vegetables, and lean proteins and less junk food, processed snack foods, and energy and sports drinks will go a long way toward keeping your kids naturally healthier, more active, and more focused.
Natural Diet for Children with ADHD
As with so many things concerning our health and behavior, most of it seems to come down to individual tolerances to these additives and ingredients, be they naturally-occurring or not. Much like a bee sting or a peanut allergy, what amounts to a mildly painful annoyance or a simple sandwich choice for most people might land others in a hospital emergency room. Likewise, some with ADHD may react to a dye-free diet more noticeably than others – it all depends on the person. With that in mind, if you're contemplating switching to any elimination-style diet for your child, you should consult with a pediatrician or nutritionist.