Diet & ADHD in Children

ADHD Diet for Children

Is there a link between western diet and ADHD?


Many of us have heard, “You are what you eat” and thought it rang true. Many of us are also aware by now that a healthy diet has many positive effects that extend well beyond the size of our waist. However, why are so many of our kids and adolescents eating foods that are so bad for them that their attention abilities are being harmed? A study by Australian researchers published in the Journal of Attention Disorders has suggested that a “western style” diet may be associated with ADHD.

Western Diet


  • High intake of total and saturated fat
  • High intake of refined sugars
  • High intake of sodium


Healthy Diet


  • High intake of omega-3 fatty acids
  • High intake of fiber
  • High intake of folate


The longitudinal study involved 2,337 fourteen-year-old girls. At 14-year follow-up, the data suggested that, at least for this group of teenagers, the more “western style” their eating patterns were, the higher their risks of having a diagnosis of ADHD by the time they reached 14 years. Why? According to some researchers, highly processed and energy-dense foods are linked with ADHD symptoms. The study also suggested an alternative interpretation of the data: the “western-style” dietary pattern is a consequence of the tendency of adolescents to crave fat-rich foods as a soothing strategy when they experience emotional distress common to this population. What do you think?



Amber L. Howard, Monique Robinson, Grant J. Smith, Gina L. Ambrosini, Jan P. Piek, and Wendy H. Oddy (2010). ADHD is associated with a ‘western’ dietary pattern in adolescents. Journal of Attention Disorders.

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