Food Sensitivity and ADD

Food Sensitivity and ADD
For years any suggestions that foods might contribute to the development or severity of Attention Deficit Disorder were dismissed as “old wives” stories. While nobody knows all of the reasons that cause people to develop ADD, it is clear that it is a biological disorder which tends to run in families. Environmental factors are also credited with contributing to the development and severity of ADD. However, studies in recent years also point to foods and food additives as possible causes.

An Australian study released in 2010 pointed a finger at the “Western diet” as an associated factor in developing Attention Deficit Disorder. The Western Diet was compared to the “Healthy” diet that was high in folate, fiber, and omega-3 fatty acids. Adolescents who ate this healthy type of diet consumed fish, fruits, and vegetables. Fresh food was emphasized. Contrast that with the Western diet that is high in carry-out foods and sweets. Western diets are also associated with fried foods and foods that are highly processed. As would be expected, these foods are high in sugar, sodium, and unhealthy fats. This Western diet was associated with twice the risk of having an Attention Deficit Disorder diagnosis before the age of 14 years.

Australian researchers believe that several mechanisms might be involved in developing symptoms of ADD. These included a lack of micronutrients, food additives, combined with a less than beneficial fatty acid profile.

In 2011, research conducted by Dr. Lidy Peisser in the Netherlands was reported in The Lancet. Dr. Peisser believes that external factors cause much of the Attention Deficit Disorder that is diagnosed. Again, her research was focused on the interaction of food with the child’s body chemistry and how the food could cause the negative symptoms of ADD.

While not all children showed improvement through manipulation of the diet in Dr. Peisser's study, as many as 64% did show positive changes in behavior. This amazed the adults who were working with them. Dr. Peisser feels that the medical profession should start children who have the symptoms of ADD on a diet that seeks to identify food-related items that they might be sensitive to. This research could show whether the children might be helped by changes in the diet, or whether medication or behavioral interventions should be used.

The University of Copenhagen reviewed studies detailing the effects of diet on children with Attention Deficit Disorder and released their findings in 2012. Their major finding is that diet does help some, but not all, young people with ADD. These reviewed studies suggest that changing the diet, especially adding omega-3 fatty acid, can improve the symptoms of ADD.

This study points out that Attention Deficit Disorder stems from several factors. There are different types of ADD/ADHD, and researchers need to identify which types of ADD are improved through dietary manipulation. A way to predict the effect of diet on ADD/ADHD needs to be devised. Formulating a way to foresee which children might be helped could cut down on medication in that population of children who have Attention Deficit Disorder.

These three studies are leading into a future where more attention should be paid to diet as a factor in ADD. More research needs to be conducted to get a clearer picture of the extent that food is implicated in the development and severity of the negative symptoms of ADD.

This article is for information only, and it is not meant to replace the advice of a medical professional. Any change of diet should be discussed with a medical doctor.


Research Australia (2010, July 29). Western diet link to ADHD, Australian study finds.ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 25, 2012, from¬/releases/2010/07/100729091454.htm (This is fascinating reading, if you enjoy the technical reading of scientific studies.)

University of Copenhagen (2012, April 24). Dietary changes help some children with ADHD.ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 25, 2012, from

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