How can an ADD/ADHA study help us?

When I was a kid we didn’t have all of these fancy
words like hyperactivity, ADD and ADHD. If a kid had
trouble sitting still and trouble focusing on the task
at hand, they were just considered “fidgety”.

Now that I’ve dated myself once again, let’s get to the
real topic which is: “Can the foods that your kids eat
have any relationship to ADD and ADHD symptoms?”

I’ve talked about the effect of food additives and the
sugar content of the diet on hyperactivity in previous
issues of my “Tips from the Professor”.

The question that I’m posing today whether
sensitivities to foods that we would otherwise consider
to be healthy trigger ADHD symptoms?

Many clinicians have long considered that a possibility
because many of the children that they were treating
for ADHD also had food sensitivities that showed up as
eczema, asthma and gastrointestinal problems.

A major clinical study called The Impact of Nutrition
on Children with ADHD (INCA) suggests that the answer
to this question is a resounding YES – food
sensitivities can cause ADHD symptoms (Pelesser et al,
Lancet, 377: 494-503, 2011).

100 children from the Netherlands and Belgium with a
definitive diagnosis of ADHD were enrolled in the
study. The age of the children was 4 to 8 years old
because it is easiest to control the food intake of
children in that age group.

At the beginning of the study every child was given IgG
blood tests to identify food sensitivities.

During the first 5 weeks of the program the children
were divided into two groups.

One group was put on a restricted elimination diet
consisting of rice, meats, vegetables, pears and water
for 5 weeks (An elimination diet is the “gold standard”
for evaluating food sensitivities because it eliminates
almost every food known to cause sensitivity from the

The second group was put on a “healthy diet” – one
which met current nutritional guidelines, but did
not eliminate any food or food group from the diet.

At the end of this 5-week period all of the children
were evaluated for ADHD symptoms in a blinded fashion
by a pediatrician specializing in diagnosing and
treating ADHD.

An astonishing 78% of the children on the elimination
diet had a reduction in their ADHD symptoms!

Those on the “healthy diet” showed no significant
improvement in symptoms.

This was followed by a second phase in which restricted
foods were added back to the diet of those children who
had responded positively to the elimination diet.

But the foods were not added back randomly. Each child
was exposed for two weeks to foods with a high IgG
response in their initial screen and for two weeks to
foods with a low IgG response in their initial screen.
In others words the foods added back were different for
each child and were based on their individual IgG

This phase of the trial was done in a crossover fashion
– meaning that half of the children received low IgG
foods during the first two weeks followed by high IgG
foods during the second two weeks – and for the other
half of the children the order was reversed.

And this phase of the study was also done in a double
blind fashion – meaning that neither the children nor
the evaluators knew whether they were receiving low IgG
foods or high IgG foods during the test period.

The results of this phase of the study were also very
interesting. There was a substantial worsening of ADHD
symptoms in 63% of the children when restricted foods
were added back to the diet – AND – it didn’t matter
whether the foods were low IgG foods or high IgG foods.

The authors’ conclusions were simple:

1) Food sensitivities make a substantial contribution
to ADHD symptoms in children.

2) Don’t waste your money on the IgG tests (They have
been controversial for some time). The best way to see
if foods trigger your child’s ADHD symptoms is to put
them on an elimination diet, and if they show an
improvement on the elimination diet, add the restricted
foods back one or two at a time so you can identify the
ones that should be avoided in the future.

Some of you might be saying that sounds difficult (it
is), so why bother?

The answer is that 5% of school age children in this
country are diagnosed with ADD or ADHD – and almost all
of them are treated with drugs that can have serious
side effects.

Using an elimination diet to find out whether your
child’s ADHD is triggered by food sensitivities and
then changing their diet has absolutely no side

Some of might be asking are there any easier drug-free
approaches that you could try or is there any natural
approach that might work for the 22% of children who
don’t respond to the elimination diet?

The answer to both questions is yes.

Simply eliminating food additives, junk foods or sugary
foods from the diet helps reduce ADHD symptoms in many

And you shouldn’t neglect the role that supplementation
can play in laying a strong nutritional foundation.

I recommend a good children’s multivitamin to make sure
that they are getting the nutrients that they need, a
protein supplement to help prevent blood sugar swings,
a good omega-3 (preferably DHA) supplement to support
brain health and a supplemental source of friendly
bacteria to promote gut health.

But if all else fails I would recommend trying an
elimination diet to identify problem foods and then
eliminating those foods from your child’s diet before
putting them on drugs.

To Your Health!
Dr. Stephen G Chaney

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