Some studies have shown diet to be beneficial for patients with ADHD. The New Zealand Medical Journal (July 26, 1978;616(88):43-45) published a small study where 10 children were put on a low allergen, Feingold-type diet. They avoided processed foods, additives, and salicylate-containing foods (like berries, almonds, apples, plums, tomatoes). Five of the children improved, and challenges with “offending” foods confirmed that the diet was responsible for their improvement. Another study appearing in the journal, European Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (June, 1997;6(2):88-95) looked at 49 children in a double-blind, placebo controlled study. One group was placed on a low-allergen diet and the other group was given methylphenidate. The drug out performed the diet (44% of the subjects improved vs. 24% on the diet). The diet, however, did not have any side-effects. Also, it makes one wonder how much better the response would be if the diet was uniquely designed for each of the participants.
The Journal of Pediatrics (November, 1994;125(5 part 1):691-698) published a six-week open trial of an additive-free diet. Parents of 150 (out or 200 who tried the diet) found that the ADHD symptom of their children improved on the diet; their symptoms also became worse when the additives were reintroduced. A group of suspected additive “reactors” were identified. A 21-day, double-blind, placebo-controlled, repeated-measures study used each child as his or her own control. Placebo, or one of six doses (1, 2, 5, 10, 20, 50 mg), of tartrazine (a yellow dye used in food) was randomly given each morning. The parents rated the behavior each day. The study identified 24 children as clear reactors. They were irritable and restless and had sleep disturbance. Significant reactions were observed at all six dose levels, but the severity of the reaction was dose dependent—more dye, more reaction. With a dose increase greater than 10 mg, the duration of effect was prolonged. So it is clear that the symptoms of some children with ADHD are affected by artificial food dye. Other research appearing in Archives Diseases in Childhood (June 2004;89:506-511) also found a connection between additives and ADHD symptoms.
Other research has shown that refined carbohydrate and nutrient deficient diets may also play a role in ADHD. It is clear that this is a piece of the puzzle and that diet is an inexpensive, side-effect free way to address ADHD.