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Various nutritional approaches state ADD/ADHD is caused by either the presence of offending substances, or the lack of necessary nutrients. There is no doubt that a healthy and well-balanced diet is beneficial. Whether or not a person has ADD/ADHD, this is an inexpensive and healthy approach to take.

Following is a partial listing of dietary issues associated with ADD/ADHD:
  • Sugar metabolism
  • Food allergies or sensitivities: cow's milk, wheat, peanuts, corn, soy, gluten, citrus, chocolate
  • Lactose intolerance
  • Food additive sensitivities
  • Insufficient intake of:
    • minerals (lack of "green" foods in the diet)
    • Choline
    • Amino acids, the precursors to neurotransmitters
While some of the above claims are controversial, it is no secret that our culture supports a "fast-food" approach to nutrition. Nor is there any question that diet and nutrition affect behavior and learning ability. Even minor nutritional deficiencies have been linked to mood changes, depression, aggression, insomnia, impaired reasoning and judgment, and memory loss.

Diet and nutrition should always be considered when assessing the possibility of ADD/ADHD. As one noted ADD/ADHD researcher has stated, "A balanced diet is the best brain medicine."

Feingold Diet
The Feingold Diet holds that sensitivity to salicylates (a naturally occurring substance found in foods such as berries and tomatoes), artificially added colors, flavors, and preservatives result in learning and behavioral problems, including ADD/ADHD. While several studies have supported this, most controlled studies have not. The exception appears to be with children who have food sensitivity.

The LCP Solution
Another theory, called the LCP (long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids) Solution, notes the human brain is 60% fat and requires substances known as essential fatty acids to function properly. Our modern diet includes considerably less of these substances than in earlier times due to (a) our food manufacturing process, (b) unhealthy changes in diet, and (c) lower incidence and duration of breast-feeding habits. Results of various studies have been inconclusive.

High doses of vitamins have not been shown to be an effective remedy.

In general, most research has concluded that sugar does not cause hyperactivity in children. However, studies have shown that adults with histories of hyperactivity had slower glucose absorption rates in certain areas of the brain, including the prefrontal cortex, which regulates attention, impulsivity, and concentration.

Therapists have noted high sugar consumption by people with ADD/ADHD. Sugar (and carbohydrates) are converted to glucose in the bloodstream. One theory is that they unknowingly attempt to compensate for the slow glucose absorption rate of their ADD/ADHD brain by ingesting more sugar.

A number of researchers have noted that children have a different response to sugar than do adults. They found that adrenaline levels in children were 10 times higher in children than in adults up to five hours after ingestion of sugar. These researchers recommend eliminating, or greatly reducing, sugar intake by children.

Brain imaging studies have shown that caffeine decreases blood flow to the brain, which can exacerbate certain symptoms associated with ADD/ADHD. In addition, it appears to decrease the effectiveness of stimulant medications.