This site is intended for health professionals only

Diet may impact ADHD symptoms in children, study suggests

Diet may impact ADHD symptoms in children, study suggests
Getty Images, 108350315, RF

A diet with more fruit and vegetables may help reduce inattention issues in children, according to a study from the US.

Children who consumed more fruits and vegetables showed less severe symptoms of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

The study by Ohio State University examined the association of diet quality with ADHD symptoms and was published in Nutritional Neuroscience.

Within NHS services, ADHD is defined as ‘a persistent pattern of inattention, hyperactivity and impulsivity that is more extreme than is typically observed in individuals at a similar stage of development’ and is observed in approximately 3-5% of children within the UK.

The researchers collected data on 134 children aged 6-12 years with ADHD symptoms. The children’s parents were asked to complete a questionnaire covering what their children ate and how big the portions were over a 90-day period. The parents were also asked to rate their child’s level of inattentiveness, including having trouble staying focused, not following instructions, difficulty remembering things and problems with emotional regulation.

Diet quality was assessed using the United States government Healthy Eating Index-2015 (HEI-2015). The results showed that HEI scores for total fruit and vegetable intake were negatively associated with inattention. The findings suggest that diet may impact inattention in children with ADHD, and those eating fewer fruits and vegetables were likely to have more severe symptoms of inattention.

Professor Irene Hatsu from Ohio State University said: ‘What clinicians usually do when kids with ADHD start having more severe symptoms is increase the dose of their treatment medication, if they are on one, or put them on medication.

‘Our studies suggest that it is worthwhile to check the children’s access to food as well as the quality of their diet to see if it may be contributing to their symptom severity. Eating a healthy diet, including fruits and vegetables, may be one way to reduce some of the symptoms of ADHD,’ she added.

See how our symptom tool can help you make better sense of patient presentations
Click here to search a symptom