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Nutrition & ADHD

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How diet influences attention and executive function

Nutrition can play a crucial role in mitigating attention problems and increasing executive function. Contrarily, a poor diet can often lead to a vicious cycle of poor decision making and poor planning. 

The common American diet is high fat, high sodium, and high carbohydrate. American children and adults often skip breakfast and often eat at fast food restaurants. Americans also consume far more sugar than the rest of the world. According to current research (http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/early/2017/01/26/peds.2016-2027) children on this typical American diet are seven times more likely to have ADHD. That same research has shown that adhering to a low-fat, low sodium, low sugar diet similar to the Mediterranean Diet filled with omega 3 fatty acids, low fat proteins, and fruits and vegetables, can improve cognitive function. 

The brain, while weighing only about 2% of a person's total body weight, consumes about 20% of the entire body's total energy output. About 2/3 of this energy is used for neurotransmission - the ability of brain cells to communicate among each other. The other 1/3 is used to keep the brain cells (neurons) healthy. So skipping breakfast is not a good idea when we have to go to school and place a heavy workload on the brain. The brain requires proteins to produce its neurotransmitters. Eating a breakfast with healthy fats and proteins makes for a good start to the school or work day. 

It's clear that the brain needs good nutrition to function at its peak. Good nutrition comes from a balanced diet low in sugar, fats, and junk food. What happens when we begin the high fat, high sugar, high carbohydrate diet? Since the brain is not getting the essential nutrients it needs, it cannot function at its peak. This doesn't only affect mindfulness and attention, it also affects our executive functions, in other words, our ability to make good decisions and the ability to plan. So once we begin on the downward spiral of a poor diet washed down with sugary soda, the brain has a difficult time making good choices and decisions to get out of this continuous cycle of bad food choices! Reading this may help you begin to break your cycle. 

If you need more help with nutrition, mindfulness, executive function, cognitive skills, or family management, call your number one resource, Play Attention 800.788.6786