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Poor diet quality increases symptom severity in children with ADHD.

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a neuro-behavioral condition characterized by inattention, impulsive behavior, and emotional dysregulation. The condition affects as many as 10 percent of children living in the United States and is more common among males than females. Findings from a recent study suggest that poor diet quality increases symptom severity in children with ADHD.

Although the causes of ADHD are likely multifactorial, evidence suggests that nutrition may influence both the etiology and severity of the condition. For example, some studies have shown that addressing micronutrient deficiencies, poor omega-3 fatty acid status, and food additive sensitivities may ameliorate symptoms of ADHD.

The study involved 134 children (ages 6 to 12 years) who had been diagnosed with ADHD and were enrolled in the Micronutrients for ADHD in Youth (MADDY) Study. Parents provided demographic information about the children’s gender, ethnicity, race, parent/guardians’ occupation, parent/guardians’ level of education, and family income, and completed food frequency questionnaires about the children’s diets. They also answered questions about the children’s behavior and ranked the severity of their ADHD symptoms.

The data revealed that the overall diet quality of this sample of children was slightly higher than that of the average child living in the United States. However, low fruit and vegetable intake was associated with having more severe ADHD symptoms, even after considering the children’s demographics. Interestingly, high intake of refined grains was associated with having less severe symptoms. The authors posited that this might have been because refined grains are fortified with micronutrients, compensating for what might be an otherwise poor diet.

These findings suggest that dietary factors play instrumental roles in ADHD symptom severity in children and underscore the importance of appropriate nutritional intake during childhood. Getting children to eat more fruits and vegetables can be challenging, however. This tasty, micronutrient-rich smoothie might be one way to help kids get the fruits and vegetables they need.

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