ADHD

Updated 21 June 2017

Dietary changes help some children with ADHD

Researchers have just completed an extensive report which reviews the studies which have been done so far on the significance of diet for children and young people with ADHD.

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Together with child and adolescent psychiatrists, researchers from the University of Copenhagen have just completed an extensive report which reviews the studies which have been done so far on the significance of diet for children and young people with ADHD. The report shows that there are potential benefits in changing the diets of children with ADHD, but that key knowledge in the area is still lacking.

The comprehensive report covers the scientific literature on the significance of diet for children with ADHD:

“Our conclusion is that more research is required in the area. There is a lot to suggest that by changing their diet, it is possible to improve the condition for some ADHD children,” says professor in paediatric nutrition Kim Fleischer Michaelsen from the Department of Human Nutrition at the Faculty of Life Sciences, University of Copenhagen, who is heading the study.

Conflicting reports

“Several of the studies show, for example, that fatty acids from fatty fish moderate the symptoms. Other studies detect no effect. Elimination diets are also promising. These look at whether there is anything in the diet which the children cannot consume without adverse side effects. However, we still lack knowledge about which children with ADHD benefit from dietary changes, how positive the effect is in the long term and what the changes mean for children’s health.”

The report shows that not all ADHD children benefit from changes to their diet, and that there are still many unknown factors. Tine Houmann, a consultant at the Centre for Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, says:

“There are different types of ADHD, and the disturbance is probably due to both genetic and environmental factors. We know that children with ADHD react very differently to both medication and dietary changes. We therefore need to study which children benefit from dietary changes, and whether we can identify genetic or environmental factors that can predict this.”

Bigger studies needed

The experts hope that, by acquiring more knowledge on the subject, it is possible to reduce the use of medication and instead develop special dietary advice for the children:

“It is promising that many research results indicate that dietary changes can help some ADHD children. However, it is crucial that bigger studies on dietary changes are conducted on children with ADHD to see how effective this is and how long the benefits last,” says Kim Fleischer Michaelsen, while stressing that parents should always seek professional advice before changing their children’s diet.

(EurekAlert, April 2012) 

Read more:

Medication for ADHD

Child nutrition

 

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Dr Renata Schoeman has been in full-time private practice as a general psychiatrist (child, adolescent and adult psychiatry) since 2008, currently based in Oude Westhof (Bellville). Renata also holds appointments as senior lecturer in Leadership (USB) and as a virtual faculty member of USB Executive Development’s Neuroleadership programme. She serves on the advisory boards of various pharmaceutical companies, as a director of the Psychiatric Management Group (PsychMG) and is the co-convenor of the South African Society of Psychiatrist (SASOP) special interest group for adult ADHD, and co-founder of the Goldilocks and The Bear Foundation (www.gb4adhd.co.za) She is passionate about corporate mental health awareness and uses her neuroscience background to assist leaders in equipping them to become balanced, healthy and dynamic leaders that take their own and their team’s emotional, intellectual, social health and physical needs into account. Renata is academically active and enjoys research and collaborative work, has published in many peer-reviewed journals, and has presented at local and international congresses. She is regularly invited to present at conferences and to engage with the media. During her post-graduate studies, she trained at Harvard, Boston in neurocognition and neuroimaging. Her awards include, amongst others, the Young Minds in Psychiatry award from the American Psychiatric Association, the Discovery Foundation Fellowship award, a Thuthuka award from the NRF, and a MRC Fellowship. She also received the Top MBA student award and the Director’s award from USB for 2015. She was a finalist for the Businesswomen’s Association of South Africa’s Businesswoman of the Year Award for 2016, and received the Excellence in Media Work award from SASOP during 2016.

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