Eating oily fish could help some children with ADHD

Wednesday, 25 April 2012 10:25 AM

Changing the diets of children with ADHD could improve behaviour, but more research is needed, according to review.

Together with child and adolescent psychiatrists, researchers from the University of Copenhagen have just completed an extensive report which reviews the studies which have been done so far on the significance of diet for children and young people with ADHD.

“Our conclusion is that more research is required in the area. There is a lot to suggest that by changing their diet, it is possible to improve the condition for some ADHD children,” says professor in paediatric nutrition Kim Fleischer Michaelsen, who is heading the study.

“Several of the studies show, for example, that fatty acids from fatty fish moderate the symptoms. Other studies detect no effect. Elimination diets are also promising. These look at whether there is anything in the diet which the children cannot consume without adverse side effects. However, we still lack knowledge about which children with ADHD benefit from dietary changes, how positive the effect is in the long term and what the changes mean for children’s health.”

The report shows that not all ADHD children benefit from changes to their diet, and that there are still many unknown factors. Tine Houmann, a consultant at the Centre for Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, said there were different types of ADHD, and the disturbance is probably due to both genetic and environmental factors.

“We know that children with ADHD react very differently to both medication and dietary changes. We therefore need to study which children benefit from dietary changes, and whether we can identify genetic or environmental factors that can predict this.”

The experts hope that, by acquiring more knowledge on the subject, it is possible to reduce the use of medication and instead develop special dietary advice for the children:

“It is promising that many research results indicate that dietary changes can help some ADHD children. However, it is crucial that bigger studies on dietary changes are conducted on children with ADHD to see how effective this is and how long the benefits last,” said Kim Fleischer Michaelsen, while stressing that parents should always seek professional advice before changing their children’s diet.

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