Consuming more fruit and vegetables can reduce attention issues in children, according to a new study.
The study involved the parents of 134 children, aged six to 12, with ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) symptoms to fill out a questionnaire regarding the foods and portions that their children consumed over a 90-day period.
They also answered questions regarding their children’s inattention symptoms, such as issues with focusing, following instructions, remembering things, and regulating their emotions.
The findings revealed that children who ate more fruit and vegetables presented less severe inattention symptoms.
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Irene Hatsu, co-author of the study and associate professor of human nutrition at The Ohio State University, said: “Eating a healthy diet, including fruits and vegetables, may be one way to reduce some of the symptoms of ADHD.”
The data for this study was collected as part of the Micronutrients for ADHD in Youth (MADDY) Study, investigating the effectiveness of a 36-ingredient vitamin and mineral supplement to treat ADHD symptoms and poor emotional control in the 134 children, who were not on medication or paused their medication two weeks prior to the study.
The MADDY study revealed that children who received the micronutrients were three times more likely to demonstrate considerable improvement in their ADHD and emotional symptoms when compared to the children who took a placebo.
The same children were also part of another study which found that the children in families with greater levels of food insecurity had a higher likelihood of showing more severe symptoms of emotional dysregulation.
All three studies suggest that a healthy diet, including all the nutrients that children require, can help reduce ADHD symptoms in children.
Hatsu explained: “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.
“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.”
The study regarding fruit and vegetable intake used data taken at the beginning of all studies and before any of the children began taking micronutrients or a placebo.
Diet is an important factor in ADHD because researchers believe that low levels of various neurotransmitters in the brain is linked to ADHD. Hatsu explained that both vitamins and minerals are vital cofactors in aiding the body to produce the neurochemicals and in brain function as a whole.
She added: “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.”
According to Hatsu, Western diets are more likely to not contain sufficient fruit and vegetable intake. Therefore, the MADDY is especially important as it is amongst the first to examine the link between ADHD symptoms and the diet of American and Canadian children.
Hatsu said: “We believe clinicians should assess the food security status of children with ADHD before creating or changing a treatment program.
“Some symptoms might be more manageable by helping families become more food secure and able to provide a healthier diet.”
The study was published in the journal Nutritional Neuroscience.