Does Diet Affect ADHD and Autism?

Does Diet Affect ADHD and Autism?

Some medical doctors disputed the notion that diet, food additives, and refined sugar had any effect on autism for years. In 2008, the American Academy of Pediatrics admitted they might have been wrong. In Alison Schonwalds article, ADHD and Food Additives Revisitedshe looks at a randomized study conducted in the UK that addresses the effects of food additives on children's behavior. In the fine print of that study, the editor states, the overall findings of the study are clear and require that even we skeptics, who have long doubted parental claims of the effects of various foods on the behavior of their children, admit we might have been wrong.

Now many experts are stating that diet may contribute to certain unwanted behaviors in children with autism or ADHD. However, they are cautious to admit that diet can play such an important role. Many state that more studies need to be done to quantify the theory, even though most of the studies already done show a connection.

Many parents and adults have adopted gluten-free and casein-free (often referred to as the GF/CF diet) diets. Casein is the main protein present in milk and cheese. It is often present in processed foods, paints, and adhesives. Gluten is primarily found in breads and cereals. Early studies show that eliminating gluten and casein from the diet improved behavior, social skills, and learning. 

Refined sugar poses its own set of complications. In a study done at the University of South Carolina, researchers concluded, that the more sugar hyperactive children consumed, the more destructive and restless they became. Additional studies conducted at Yale University are coming to the same conclusion, high-sugar diets may increase inattention in some ADHD kids.

GF/CF and diets that do not contain sugar (refined or otherwise) tend to be very lean. This contradicts statements made by The American Society of Nutritional Sciences that Fat, especially in infancy and early childhood, is essential for neurological development and brain function. The ASNS goes on to state, children and adults need fat in their diets. It supplies essential fatty acids (EFA) and aids in the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K.

Kids Health reports, some experts think the low-fat/no-fat revolution may have gone too far, overlooking the complex nature of fats and how they work in the body. Rather than a low-fat diet, they suggest a diet that includes unsaturated fats, which are found in foods such as avocados, olive oil, tuna fish, and salmon. Nutritionist Kerry Torren believes there is a tradeoff with low-fat/no-fat foods. She states, the typical low-fat product tended to be high in carbs, might contain trans-fats, and had a very similar calorie count to the original product.

When it comes to modifying your child diet, it's important that you consult with your medical doctor and a nutritionist who specializes in autism and ADHD. Certified nutritionist Julie Matthews has devoted her website NourishingHope to providing information about food and nutrition for ADHD, autism and healthy children.