29 Apr 2024

The Impact of Diet and Nutrition on ADHD 

Earlier this month, fitness guru Joe Wicks came under fire for appearing to claim that ADHD is caused by poor diet. He’s since clarified that he believes …

Earlier this month, fitness guru Joe Wicks came under fire for appearing to claim that ADHD is caused by poor diet. He’s since clarified that he believes children are more likely to be misdiagnosed with ADHD due to the influence of poor diet on behaviour. In this guide, we’ll explain the link between diet and behaviour and how poor diet can exacerbate certain traits associated with ADHD.

Is ADHD caused by poor diet?

No, ADHD is not caused by poor diet, ADHD is a developmental disorder that is present from birth, although it may not be problematic or diagnosed until later in life. However, just because poor diet does not cause ADHD, doesn’t mean it is not important. Healthy eating is integral for your child’s development and impacts your child’s behaviour, regardless of whether they have ADHD or not.

Diet and Child Behaviour

Providing your child with a healthy diet can be difficult, especially if they are a fussy eater or have food issues. Healthy eating not only helps your child develop a healthy body but a healthy mind too. Research from the Association of UK Dietitians shows that a child’s diet impacts their mood, behaviour, and ability to learn.

Regular meals can also impact your child’s behaviour – this is why starting the day with a nutritious breakfast is important. It boosts the hormones that control mood and concentration. The brain is powered by glucose, and children aged 4-10 have twice the cerebral metabolic rate of glucose utilisation than adults, meaning that they are more likely to suffer from a lack of mental energy than adults if they miss breakfast or don’t eat regularly.

Foods in high sugar, like sweets, chocolate and over-processed carbohydrates found in junk food, can lead to sugar spikes, followed by a sugar crash. Sugar spikes and sugar crashes can make it difficult for your child to concentrate and also contribute to hyperactivity, which are both associated with ADHD. So, while diet does not cause ADHD, it can mimic some of the traits associated with it, and if your child does have ADHD, it can cause their symptoms to be amplified.

An unhealthy diet can also mean your child is missing out on the vital nutrients they need for healthy development. Omega-3, protein, iron and zinc are all necessary for healthy brain function and development.

How to tell if your child’s behaviour is caused by ADHD or diet?

ADHD is characterised by inattention, hyperactivity and impulsivity. Levels of each of these traits vary from person to person and can manifest in several different ways. ADHD is present from birth. However, the symptoms of ADHD might become more evident once your child starts school or nursery, or even later in life.

It could be beneficial to review your child’s diet to see if this has an impact on their levels of inattentiveness, hyperactivity or impulsivity before you consider an ADHD Assessment. Make sure your child starts the day with a nutritious breakfast and try to avoid trigger foods. Then, if you see no or little change in their behaviour, an ADHD assessment might be the first step in accessing the support they need.

How can the Autism Service help?

Here at the Autism Service, we offer comprehensive Adult and Child ADHD assessments, as well as combined assessments for Autism and ADHD at 29 clinics across the UK. Our assessments follow the gold standard of testing, and our registered clinicians will assess you or your child with the highest level of compassion and care. Ready to explore the possibility of an ADHD diagnosis? Find a clinic today.

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