Here’s why fruits and vegetables are important for children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD): According to recent research, it may help with inattention concerns.
As part of a larger study, researchers asked the parents of 134 kids with ADHD symptoms to fill out a detailed questionnaire about the usual meals their kids ate over the course of 90 days.
Another survey asked parents to rank their children’s symptoms of inattention—a characteristic of ADHD—such as difficulties remaining focused, not following directions, forgetting things, and controlling emotions.
Irene Hatsu, who helped write the study and is an associate professor of human nutrition at The Ohio State University, said that kids who ate more fruits and vegetables showed less serious signs of being distracted.
“One method to decrease some of the symptoms of ADHD is to eat a nutritious diet that includes fruits and vegetables,” Hatsu added.
The research was just published in the journal Nutritional Neuroscience.
The data for this study came from the Micronutrients for ADHD in Youth (MADDY) Study, which looked at the effectiveness of a 36-ingredient vitamin and mineral supplement in treating symptoms of ADHD and poor emotional regulation in 134 children aged 6 to 12.
According to the research, children who took the micronutrient supplement were three times more likely to exhibit substantial improvement in their ADHD and emotional dysregulation symptoms than those who took a placebo. The results of the research were published in the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry last year.
In a different study done with the same children and published earlier this year in the journal Nutrients, it was found that children from families with higher levels of food insecurity were more likely to have severe emotional dysregulation symptoms like chronic irritability, angry moods, and angry outbursts.
According to Hatsu, all three studies show that a good diet that includes all of the nutrients that children need may help lessen the symptoms of ADHD in children.
“When kids with ADHD start exhibiting more severe symptoms, professionals frequently raise the amount of their treatment medication or put them on medication,” Hatsu said.
“Our findings suggest that checking the children’s access to food and the quality of what they eat may help figure out how bad their symptoms are.”
The MADDY research included children from three locations: Columbus, Ohio; Portland, Oregon; and Lethbridge, Alberta, Canada. The research was conducted between 2018 and 2020. Two weeks before the start of the trial, participants were either not taking medication or had ceased using it.
Data from when the children were first signed up for the trial, before they started taking the micronutrient supplement or placebo, was used to look at how food insecurity affects how much fruit and vegetables they eat.
Why is it possible that nutrition is so essential for ADHD?
According to Hatsu, low levels of certain neurotransmitters in the brain are linked to ADHD, and vitamins and minerals play a crucial role as cofactors in helping the body create those critical neurochemicals and in general brain function.
Food insecurity might also have an impact.
“Everyone, even children with ADHD, becomes irritable when they’re hungry.” It’s possible that not eating enough nourishment is making their symptoms worse, “she stated.
Also, the worry of parents who are worried about not being able to provide their children enough food may cause family friction, which can exacerbate ADHD symptoms in children.
Hatsu says that the MADDY study is one of the first to look at how ADHD symptoms and the quality of children’s food in the United States and Canada are related.
This is important because, unlike many other diets, like the Mediterranean diet, the Western diet is more likely to be low in fruits and vegetables.
“We think that doctors should check the food security of children with ADHD before starting or changing a treatment plan,” Hatsu said.
“By helping families get more food security and be able to feed their children a healthy diet, some symptoms may be easier to control.”
Lisa Robinette, Leanna Eiterman, Madeline Stern, Barbara Gracious, James Odei, and Tonya Orchard were also co-authors on the study.
The other co-authors were from Oregon Health & Science University, National University of Natural Medicine, University of Lethbridge, Orange Park Medical Center, and Johns Hopkins University.