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Fruits and vegetables plays key role in ADHD symptoms in children

by Vaishali Sharma

According to a new study, youngsters who consume fruits and vegetables have less inattention.

The research findings were published in the journal ‘Nutritional Neuroscience.’ Researchers invited parents of 134 children with ADHD symptoms to fill out a thorough questionnaire on the typical foods their children ate during a 90-day period as part of a larger study.

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.

According to Irene Hatsu, co-author of the study and associate professor of human nutrition at The Ohio State University, youngsters who ate more fruits and vegetables had fewer severe signs of inattention.

“Eating a healthy diet, including fruits and vegetables, maybe one way to reduce some of the symptoms of ADHD,” Hatsu said.

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.

Children who took the micronutrients were three times more likely to exhibit substantial improvement in their ADHD and emotional dysregulation symptoms than those who took a placebo, according to the research that tested the supplement’s efficacy. The results of the study were published in the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry last year.

Another study of the same children, published earlier this year in the journal Nutrients, found that children from families with higher levels of food insecurity were more likely than others to exhibit severe emotional dysregulation symptoms like chronic irritability, angry moods, and outbursts of anger.

The three studies all paint a similar picture, Hatsu said: A healthy diet that provides all the nutrients that children require can help reduce the symptoms of ADHD in children.

“What clinicians usually do when kids with ADHD start having more severe symptoms is increase the dose of their treatment medication, if they are on one, or put them on medication,” Hatsu said.

“Our studies suggest that it is worthwhile to check the children’s access to food as well as the quality of their diet to see if it may be contributing to their symptom severity,” he added.

Children in the MADDY study, all of whom met the criteria for ADHD, were recruited from three sites: Columbus, Ohio; Portland, Oregon; and Lethbridge, Alberta, Canada. The study took place between 2018 and 2020. Participants were either not taking medication or stopped using it two weeks before the study began.

The studies on fruit and vegetable intake and the role of food insecurity were based on data collected when the children were first enrolled in the study before they began taking the micronutrient supplement or placebo.

Why may diet be so important in ADHD?

Researchers believe that ADHD is related to low levels of some neurotransmitters in the brain — and vitamins and minerals play a key role as cofactors in helping the body make those important neurochemicals and in overall brain function, Hatsu said.

Food insecurity may play an additional role.

“Everyone tends to get irritated when they’re hungry and kids with ADHD are no exception. If they’re not getting enough food, it could make their symptoms worse,” she said.

Additionally, the worry of parents who are concerned about not being able to provide their children enough food can lead to family friction, which can exacerbate ADHD symptoms in children.

According to Hatsu, the MADDY research is one of the first to investigate the link between ADHD symptoms and food quality in children in the United States and Canada.

This is significant since Western diets, unlike many others, such as the Mediterranean diet, are more likely to be deficient in fruit and vegetable consumption, according to her.

Also Read: Smoking during pregnancy may not promote ADHD in children, study suggests

“We believe clinicians should assess the food security status of children with ADHD before creating or changing a treatment program,” Hatsu said.

“Some symptoms might be more manageable by helping families become more food secure and able to provide a healthier diet.”

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