Although ADHD is typically classified as a childhood disorder, it oftentime may persist into adulthood with an estimated prevalence of 2.5 percent (Gaynes, 2014). Certain types of medication are often used to treat ADHD but can lead to side effects and financial strain. Due to these findings, alternative options such as food and its effect on the condition, are being considered more and more as a supplement to treatment.
Although research is ongoing, so far there is evidence that food and nutrition interact with ADHD in at least four ways.
1. Adults with ADHD are more likely to be obese.
In a study of more than 6000 participants aged 18-44 years old, obesity was more prevalent among those with adult ADHD than among those with no history of ADHD (Pagoto et al., 2012). One possible explanation is because both ADHD and obesity have shown a relationship to dopamine, an important neurotransmitter for appetite control.
2. Adults with ADHD may experience nutritional deficiencies.
Decreased levels of omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) have been seen in individuals with ADHD (Phillips, 2014). However, women who consumed an omega-3-rich diet during pregnancy were less likely to have a child with ADHD. Unfortunately, there is not yet enough information to know if adding PUFDs to a diet can improve ADHD symptoms.
3. Artificial Coloring may have a relationship with ADHD.
According to the American Journal of Psychiatry (2013), excluding artificial food coloring produced reductions in ADHD symptoms. More research is needed in this area, but in light of the fact that artificial food colorings are questionable for anyone, it would be prudent to eliminate them as much as possible.
4. ADHD can impact eating behaviors.
For example, those with ADHD frequently skip meals more often than those without ADHD, yet they eat more than five times a day (Ptacek et al., 2014). Additionally, higher rates of bulimia nervosa are found in adult women with ADHD compared to women without ADHD (Surman, Randall & Biederman, 2006).
If you are living with ADHD, it may be a good idea to include a registered dietitian as part of your healthcare team.** See more helpful articles:**
Tracy Davenport, Ph.D., is a freelance health writer and the C.E.O. of Tracy’s Smoothie Place. She serves as the expert on a weekly radio show about health and wellness and is the author of Making Life Better for a Baby with Acid Reflux and multiple articles about the cost of caregiving. Learn more about Tracy and what healthy living services and products she can offer on her website. She can also be found on Twitter and Instagram @drinksmoothies.