Increased ADHD Associated with “Western Diet”
A study from Australia warns about the effects of a typical Western diet and the rise of ADHD in adolescents. The good news is that eating a “healthy pattern diet,” more common in Asian and many Mediterranean countries, lessens the reported diagnosis of ADHD.
“We found a diet high in the Western pattern of foods was associated with more than double the risk of having an ADHD diagnosis compared with a diet low in the Western pattern, after adjusting for numerous other social and family influences,” Dr Wendy Oddy, a lead researcher for the study, said.A “Western” pattern is a diet with a trend towards convenience foods, sweets, processed, fried and refined foods.
These diets tend to be higher in total fat, saturated fat, refined sugar and sodium.A “healthy” pattern is a diet high in fresh fruit and vegetables, whole grains and fish. It tends to be higher in omega-3 fatty acids, folate and fiber.The specific foods that are most associated with those who received an ADHD diagnosis are processed meats, red meat, high fat dairy products and sweets.
“We suggest that a Western dietary pattern may indicate the adolescent has a less optimal fatty acid profile, whereas a diet higher in omega-3 fatty acids is thought to hold benefits for mental health and optimal brain function,” said Oddy.In addition she added that the Western dietary pattern does not provide enough essential micronutrients that are needed for brain function, particularly attention and concentration. Another concern is that the Western diet might contain more additives that have been linked to an increase in ADHD symptoms.
There may also be a link between impulsivity, characteristic of ADHD, leading to poor food choices when hungry.
“This is a cross-sectional study so we cannot be sure whether a poor diet leads to ADHD or whether ADHD leads to poor dietary choices and cravings,” Dr Oddy said.
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Amber L. Howard, Monique Robinson, Grant J. Smith, Gina L. Ambrosini, Jan P. Piek, and Wendy H. Oddy. ADHD Is Associated With a ‘Western’ Dietary Pattern in Adolescents. Journal of Attention Disorders, 2010; DOI: 10.1177/1087054710365990