ADHD or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder eating a “Western Diet”.

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The research was led by Dr Wendy Oddy from Perth Telethon Institute for Child Health Research.

“When we looked at specific foods, having an ADHD diagnosis was associated with a diet high in takeaway foods, processed meats, red meat, high fat dairy products and confectionary,” said Dr. Oddy.

The study was based on an analysis of information obtained from the Raine Study which involved almost 3,000 teenagers who had been followed since birth, 1800 of whom had their dietary information recorded.

Diets were divided into two separate groups, one of which represented a “Western Diet” which basically meant a diet higher in saturated fats, processed foods, fried foods and sugar. The other group which included fresh fruit and vegetables as well as fish and whole grains was labelled the “healthy diet”.

The researchers compared the diets with a diagnosis of ADHD. In total 115 of the teenagers had been diagnosed with the disorder.

“We looked at the dietary patterns amongst the adolescents and compared the diet information against whether or not the adolescent had received a diagnosis of ADHD by the age of 14 years. In our study, 115 adolescents had been diagnosed with ADHD, 91 boys and 24 girls,” said Oddy.

“We found a diet high in the Western pattern of foods was associated with more than double the risk of having an ADHD diagnosis compared with a diet low in the Western pattern, after adjusting for numerous other social and family influences.”

The researchers didn’t find an association between a healthy diet and ADHD and are suggesting that the Western diet lacks certain nutrients, in particular Omega 3 fatty acids, for optimal brain function.

Previous research studies have made the link between a lack of Omega 3 fatty acids in the diet and ADHD. Clinical trials in which individuals with ADHD were given fish oil supplements high in Omega 3 fatty acids found that supplementation improved brain function and learning and significantly reduced the symptoms of ADHD.

Omega 3 fatty acids are long chain fatty acids found in oily fish like salmon, mackerel, herring, sardines and tuna.

What this latest study didn’t reveal was whether a diet lacking in Omega 3 fatty acids actually causes ADHD or whether ADHD makes someone more likely to indulge in a poor diet and have particular food cravings.

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