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Study: ADHD Diet Helps Reduce Symptoms

Avoiding Certain Foods May Cut Symptoms of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder in Kids

Positive Response to ADHD Diet continued...

The restricted diets must be supervised by experts, Pelsser tells WebMD, and five weeks is enough time to determine if it will work.

If the diet works to reduce symptoms, Pelsser says, the children won't need medication. "The children responding favorably to the RED do not meet the criteria for ADHD or ODD anymore. Consequently there is no need for medication."

In a second phase of the study, the researchers looked at the theory of whether eating foods that induce high levels of immunoglobulin G (IgG) antibodies is linked to symptoms of ADHD, as some believe. Those who support this theory suggest blood tests to evaluate IgG levels might be useful.

After challenging the children with high-IgG and low-IgG inducing foods, the researchers found no association between IgG blood levels and behavioral effects, concluding that IgG blood tests to identify foods triggering ADHD symptoms is not advisable.

Second Opinion

The high response rate is ''very surprising" to Eugene Arnold, MD,  professor emeritus of psychiatry at Ohio State University's Nisonger Center, Columbus, who reviewed the study findings for WebMD.

Arnold says he is open to parents who want to try the ADHD diet, provided it is supervised by experts who can help the parents. "There is a risk of malnutrition if you don't pay attention to the balance of nutrients."

But the results need to be duplicated in another study with different children, he says, to see if the results hold up.

He cautions parents not to try out the diet for long periods. "If there is no improvement in two to five weeks, forget it," Arnold says. The diet effort tends to work better in younger children, ages 3 to 7 or so, he says, in part because parents have more control over the diets of younger children than those of older ones.

If parents decide to give the ADHD diet a try, their involvement is crucial, agrees Jaswinder Ghuman, MD, associate professor of psychiatry and pediatrics at the University of Arizona, who wrote a commentary to accompany the study. "It is very difficult to carry out," she says of the diet. It can be time consuming and more expensive than other diets, experts say.

She, too, is surprised by the high response rate to the ADHD diet. But she adds that "these are interesting findings and it does present an alternative treatment option for the children."

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