Alternative Treatment for ADHD: Should I change my diet?

When considering alternative treatment for ADHD, many people ask whether or not dietary changes make a difference. Are there certain foods that should be avoided? Should you be taking certain supplements?

imageThe short answer to this: there’s not enough evidence to support a “special diet” for ADHD; for most individuals, treatment by dietary methods alone will not significantly impact signs and symptoms of ADHD.

Here are some key findings from a 2012 review published by Pediatrics:

Fatty acid supplements (e.g. omega-3 and omega-6 supplements): Although some articles report a decrease in ADHD symptoms as a result of taking fatty acid supplements, their beneficial effects have not been clearly demonstrated across research studies.

Dyes, preservatives, and allergens: Eliminating these from one’s diet appears to  be beneficial to individuals with identifiable sensitivities to certain foods; however, following an elimination diet requires significant commitment by the family.

Sugar, sucrose, and aspartame: These do not appear to have a great effect on behaviour or cognitive functioning for most individuals, despite parental expectations.

So, although dietary methods may be effective for some individuals diagnosed with ADHD, behavioural and medical interventions continue to be the primary evidence-based treatment.

This is not to say that a healthy diet and lifestyle doesn’t make a difference! – there are numerous health benefits to this, and nutrition is an important part of a comprehensive treatment approach for ADHD. We just might want to reconsider approaching it as the only way to approach ADHD.

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