Tag Archives: ADHD

Pediatric Study: ‘Healthy’ Diet Best for ADHD Kids

Fast foods, sodas, and ice cream may be American kids’ favorite menu items, but they’re also probably the worst for those with attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), a new literature review suggests.

According to two researchers from Children’s Memorial Hospital in Chicago, a relatively simple diet low in fats and high in whole grains, fruits, and vegetables is one of the best alternatives to drug therapy for ADHD. Omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acid supplements have also been shown to help in some controlled studies, they noted.

This state-of-the-art review suggests dietary interventions for children with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) if:

  1. medications are ineffective,
  2. parents or children wish to try dietary approaches, or
  3. mineral deficiencies were present.

Diets to reduce symptoms associated with ADHD include sugar-restricted, additive/preservative-free, oligoantigenic/elimination, and fatty acid supplements.

The authors write, “In practice, additive-free and oligoantigenic/elimination diets are time-consuming and disruptive to the household; they are indicated only in selected patients.”

ADHD medications NOT associated with adult CVD risk

The Wall Street Journal reports that medications used for the treatment of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (AD/HD) appear NOT to raise the risk of serious cardiovascular disease (CVD) in adults, according to a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. Continue reading

Secondhand smoke exposure linked to psychological problems in children, adolescents

The Los Angeles Times “Booster Shots” blog reported, “Children and teens exposed to secondhand smoke are more likely to develop symptoms for a variety of mental health problems,” according to a study in the journal Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine. Continue reading

Elimination diet may benefit some young children with ADHD

In my book, Why ADHD Doesn’t Mean Disaster (currently on sale for $1.99 here), I discuss the possibility that certain diet changes may help SOME kids with ADHD. At the time, I took some grief for making this statement, which was based upon 25 years experience caring for these special kids (and NOT on a ton of data). However, now a new study is backing my contention.

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Most ADHD Kids Have Multiple Conditions, Study Says

In my book, Why ADHD Doesn’t Mean Disaster (currently on sale for $1.99 here), I encourage parents to be very careful in choosing who evaluates their child for ADHD. In fact, I normally recommend the evaluation be done by a multi-displinary team, even if it means traveling to do so. Why? Because up to two-thirds of kids with ADHD face other struggles, such as learning disabilities, anxiety, and speech problems. Now another study is backing my contention. Continue reading

Untreated teens with ADHD at risk behind the wheel

Teenaged boys are more likely than any other drivers to have car accidents, and a diagnosis of attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) increases their risk even further, a new study finds. Looking at more than 3,000 teenaged boys who had been in car accidents, a group of Canadian researchers found those who had been diagnosed with various forms of ADHD were more than a third likelier to be involved in a car accident than teenaged boys without ADHD.

In my book, Why ADHD Doesn’t Mean Disaster, I discuss how teens with ADHD who are not treated are far more likely to be involved in risky behavior than teens without ADHD. Signed copies of the book are on clearance sale now and are available in softcover and hardcover versions.


Here are the details on this new study from Reuters Health:

“If teenagers with ADHD brought their risk down to that of normal teens without ADHD, that might have prevented about 1 in every 20 crashes we observed in our study,” Dr. Donald Redelmeier at the University of Toronto told Reuters Health.

The key element here is probably “distraction,” Redelmeier said in an interview. People with ADHD often struggle to maintain focus and one lapse can have a major impact behind the wheel, he said. “A couple moments of inattention can really change your life forever.”

Reporting in the journal PLoS Medicine, he and his colleagues also found that teens with ADHD were more likely to get injured in accidents even if they were pedestrians. Here, too, distraction probably plays a role, Redelmeier said, perhaps if teens step into oncoming traffic without paying attention.

Other distractions – such as talking on the phone and texting – have been shown to increase the risk of accidents.

To investigate whether internal distractions from a hyperactive brain also had an effect, the researchers reviewed medical records on 3421 teenaged boys hospitalized following car accidents (whether or not the teens were at fault), and compared their health history to 3812 boys admitted to have their appendix removed, serving as controls.

The team found that 22 percent of the teens in accidents had been diagnosed with a form of ADHD, versus only 17 percent of controls. Boys with ADHD were 37 percent more likely to be in an accident, relative to boys without the diagnosis.

The same trend was equally present in teenaged girls. Teenaged boys are already more likely than any other group to have accidents and having ADHD is not as risky as, for instance, drinking alcohol while driving, Redelmeier noted.

But with an estimated 10 million vehicles involved in crashes in 2008 in the U.S., even a small impact on accident risk involves many people, he noted. Although many of the included teens were presumably being treated for their ADHD, the treatment itself is probably not at fault, Redelmeier noted — other research that tested driving ability in a simulated condition has found that people with ADHD taking medication were better behind the wheel, not worse, he said.

The most important steps teenagers (particularly those with ADHD) can take to stay safe behind the wheel include avoiding speeding as well as alcohol, minimizing distractions, using a seatbelt, keeping a safe distance from other cars and obeying doctor’s orders, Redelmeier said. Of course, parents can’t prevent their teenagers with ADHD from driving, but it makes sense to take extra precautions in this group, the researcher suggested.

For instance, some licensing authorities require drivers to indicate whether they have conditions that may impair their performance, such as epilepsy and diabetes. “All we’re suggesting is they add one more medical condition onto that already existing list of conditions,” Redelmeier said.

9 Food Additives That May Affect ADHD

In my book on ADHD, Why ADHD Doesn’t Mean Disaster …


On sale now in both softcover and hardcover

… I say this about the association between food additives and ADHD:

Dr. Ben Feingold first popularized the idea in his 1985 book, Why Your Child Is Hyperactive, that food additives caused ADHD. However, multiple medical studies since then indicate that the likelihood of these substances playing a role in ADHD is very, very low. Although food dyes or preservatives may affect some children, it is at most a very small percentage and a very small effect.

Nevertheless, I also wrote this:

While it is highly unlikely that ADHD is either caused or worsened by junk foods, there are plenty of other health reasons to restrict these foods at least on normal days.

And, I might add, there’s certainly no harm in trying a diet eliminating or restricting food additives and see how your child does. If you want to give this a try, here are nine additives you may want to first eliminate according to an article at Health.com:

1) Blue No. 1

  • Also known as: Brilliant blue
  • What it is: A food coloring
  • Where you can find it: Frito-Lay Sun Chips French Onion and other Frito-Lay products; some Yoplait products; some JELL-O dessert products; Fruity Cheerios; Trix; Froot-Loops; Apple Jacks; Quaker Cap’N Crunch’s Crunch Berries; some Pop-Tarts products; some Oscar Mayer Lunchables; Duncan Hines Whipped Frosting Chocolate; Edy’s ice cream products; Skittles candies; Jolly Ranchers Screaming Sours Soft & Chew Candy; Eclipse gum; Fanta Grape

2) Blue No. 2

  • Also known as: Indigotine
  • What it is: A food coloring
  • Where you can find it: Froot-Loops; Post Fruity Pebbles; Pop-Tarts products; Duncan Hines Moist Deluxe Strawberry Supreme Premium Cake Mix; Betty Crocker Frosting Rich & Creamy Cherry; M&M’s Milk Chocolate Candies; M&M’s Milk Chocolate Peanut Candies; Wonka Nerds Grape/Strawberry; pet foods

3) Green No. 3

  • What it is: A food coloring, though rarely used these days
  • Where you can find it: Candy, beverages, ice cream, puddings

4) Orange B

  • What it is: A food coloring, but no longer used
  • Where you used to find it: Sausage casings

5) Red No. 3

  • Also known as: Carmoisine
  • What it is: A food coloring found only in a few types of food products
  • Where you can find it: Candy, cake icing, chewing gum

6) Sodium benzoate

  • What it is: A food preservative
  • Where you can find it: Fruit juice, carbonated beverages, and pickles
  • You’ll find sodium benzoate in abundance in acidic foods. It is used to stymie the growth of microorganisms, according to the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI).

7) Red No. 40

  • Also known as: Allura red
  • What it is: A food coloring and the most widely used food dye in the U.S., trumping both Yellow No. 5 and Yellow No. 6.
  • Where you can find it: Some Frito-Lay products; some Yoplait products; JELL-O Gelatin desserts; Quaker Instant Oatmeal; Trix; Froot-Loops; Apple Jacks; some Pop-Tart products; Kid Cuisine Kung Fu Panda products; Oscar Mayer Lunchables products; Hostess Twinkies; some Pillsbury rolls and frostings; some Betty Crocker and Duncan Hines frostings; and more

8) Yellow No. 5

  • Also known as: Tartrazine
  • What it is: Yellow No. 5 is the only food dye that has been tested alone and not simply as part of a mix. Those studies did link it to hyperactivity. It is the second most commonly used dye in the U.S.
  • Where you can find it: Nabisco Cheese Nips Four Cheese; Frito-Lay Sun Chips Harvest Cheddar and other Frito-Lay products; some Hunt’s Snack Pack Pudding products; Lucky Charms; Eggo waffles and other waffle products; some Pop-Tarts products; various Kraft macaroni and cheese products; Betty Crocker Hamburger Helper and other products

9) Yellow No. 6

  • Also known as: Sunset yellow
  • What it is: The third most widely used food dye in the U.S.
  • Where you can find it: Frito-Lay Cheetos Flamin’ Hot Crunchy and other Frito-Lay products; Betty Crocker Fruit Roll-ups; some JELL-O gelatin deserts and instant puddings; Fruity Cheerios; Trix; some Eggo waffle products; some Kid Cuisine Kung Fu Panda products; some Kraft macaroni and cheese dinners; some Betty Crocker frostings; some M&M’s and Skittles candies; Sunkist Orange Soda; Fanta Orange

Celebrities With Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder

Writing the book Why ADHD Doesn’t Mean Disaster brought me much joy. In the book I emphasize that people with ADHD are usually quite gifted, but as kids need to be parented in a special way. Kids with ADHD are very valuable but fragile gifts that must be unwrapped and cared for with special skills. (BTW, the book is now on clearance sale here for the softcover [$1.99] and here for the hardcover [$3.99]).


I’ve found as I care for kids with ADHD, it’s helpful for them to learn of celebrities who have ADHD. Here is a nice article of celebrities with ADHD from Health.com:

Up to 10 million American adults have attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)—also commonly referred to as ADD—so it’s no surprise that some of America’s most acclaimed athletes, actors, and musicians make up part of that mix. Left untreated, the disorder is characterized by poor concentration and disorganization, and can lead to emotional and social problems.

About 60% of children diagnosed with ADHD will continue to experience these symptoms well into adulthood. And some people with the disorder don’t receive an official diagnosis until middle age.

See which celebs have suffered with an ADHD diagnosis since childhood, and which have learned to manage their disorder as adults.

Michael Phelps

The 25-year-old Olympic swimming sensation is famous for his incredible focus in the pool, so it’s hard to believe he has struggled with ADHD since childhood. His teachers complained about his inability to sit still until, in fifth grade, the Phelps’ family physician formally diagnosed him with ADHD. At age 9, Phelps went on Ritalin; his mother, Debbie, later recalled in the New York Times that it seemed to help his hyperactivity. After two years on medication, however, Phelps said he felt stigmatized (each day at lunchtime he had to visit the school nurse to get his medicine) and asked to be taken off the drug. After consulting with his doctor, Debbie agreed to let him be med free.

Instead, Phelps used swimming to help him find focus. In fact, many children with ADHD benefit from competitive sports. “I’m just different in the water,” Phelps told Sports Illustrated. “I just feel at home in it.”

Solange Knowles

The soulful songstress says she’s always been full of energy, and claims that sometimes her sporadic speech and effervescence led people to believe she was on drugs. The real culprit? ADHD.

Knowles, whose older sister is the popular singer and actress Beyoncé, said she was diagnosed with the disorder twice before she believed it. “I didn’t believe the first doctor who told me,” she has said. “I guess I was in denial.”

Traditionally, ADHD was thought to be a male-oriented disease, and men were once believed to account for the vast majority of cases. But recent research has begun to focus on how the disorder affects females, so that ADHD may be identified earlier in women’s lives.

Ty Pennington

The energetic and upbeat star of ABC’s Extreme Makeover: Home Edition said he was “uncontrollable” as a child unless he had a crayon and piece of paper in hand. Pennington, 44, earned poor marks throughout high school and college, until he was diagnosed with ADHD as an undergrad. He’s now a spokesperson for Shire, a pharmaceutical company that manufactures adult ADHD drugs.

“I’m about as ADHD as you can get,” Pennington told InStyle magazine. He went on medication following his diagnosis and saw an instant improvement in his schoolwork. “I immediately stared getting straight A’s. It changed my life!”

Howie Mandel

The Deal or No Deal host is calm and collected during his super-hyped game show, but ADHD made him impulsive and unfocused well into adulthood, when he finally got a formal diagnosis.

A penchant for pranks got Mandel expelled from high school, and he continued to struggle with his attention span for the next 20 years before his doctor finally gave him an ADHD diagnosis. “I found it difficult to sit down and read a script for work, or even have a conversation,” says Mandel, 55.

Mandel is now the celebrity spokesperson for the Adult ADHD Is Real PSA campaign, encouraging treatment for the disease.

James Carville

The political pundit and consultant is widely credited with helping Bill Clinton win the 1992 presidential election, but he wasn’t always so focused. In fact, Carville, 66, initially flunked out of college.

He later went back to earn his bachelor’s degree before going on to graduate from law school. Carville has said that he found his razor-sharp focus for politics because of its fast-paced and ever-changing nature. In 2007, Carville was a featured guest at the CHADD (Children and Adults With Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder) 20th Anniversary Hall of Fame Conference.

Christopher Knight

Playing pint-size Peter on the original Brady Bunch television series, Knight, 52, had a hard time learning his lines. Finally, in 1997, he was diagnosed with ADHD. He sought treatment to help manage his condition and served as a spokesperson for the National Consumer League’s AD/HD campaign.

Cammi Granato

She helped lead her team to gold as the captain of the U.S. women’s ice hockey team at the 1998 Olympics in Nagano, Japan—and she credits her ADHD with helping her get that far. Granato, 39, claims that constantly feeling restless contributed to her drive on ice.

ADHD makes everyday tasks such as paying bills more difficult for Granato, but the energy and creativity associated with the disorder have helped in her sport. “It’s affected me in positive and negative ways,” Granato told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch in 2005. “It’s really my worst and best qualities wrapped in one.”

ADHD drugs have no long-term growth effects: study

When I wrote the medical sections for the book, Why ADHD Doesn’t Mean Disaster, I discussed the fact that there had been concerns, in some circles, that ADHD medications may effect a child’s growth — although the risk of this effect (if real) was far less than the risks, for most children, particularly teens, of not utilizing the medications. Now, it will be easier for me to reassure my patients and their parents as a new study is reporting that neither attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) nor the medications used to treat it have a long-term impact on a child’s growth. (By the way, my ADHD book, in both the soft cover and hard cover is currently on sale at my online bookstore.)

Here are the details from a report in Reuters Health: Previous studies have shown that medication may make kids with ADHD eat less and grow slower than their peers without the condition – at least at first. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, almost 10 percent of boys and 6 percent of girls have been diagnosed with ADHD.

“There have been concerns in the literature about the use of ADHD medications and their effect on growth,” Dr. Stephen Faraone, a psychiatrist at Upstate Medical University in Syracuse, New York, and one of the study’s authors, told Reuters Health. “We found that that (growth) delay tends to be most prominent in the first year or so, and tends to attenuate over time.”

Dr. Faraone and his colleagues measured and weighed 261 kids with and without ADHD that they had been following for at least ten years. Most of the kids with ADHD had spent at least some of that time on stimulants, such as Ritalin and Adderall.

At the end of the study, there was no difference in the height or weight of the kids – now mostly adults – who had ADHD and those that didn’t. There was also no relationship between their height and weight and how long they had been on medication, if at all.

Stimulant drugs are the most popular treatment for ADHD and are FDA approved for this purpose. The FDA has also approved non-stimulant drugs, which are not thought to affect growth. In addition to or instead of taking medications, many kids with ADHD get behavioral therapy and special help in the classroom.

Stimulants have been shown to delay growth when kids take them for a long time. The medications make some kids less hungry and might affect bone growth or the release of certain hormones that influence height. But this study supports growing evidence that those effects might balance out over the long term.

“I think that’s the general opinion, that there is maybe a temporary effect when you start treatment and then it goes away,” Dr. James Swanson, director of the Child Development Center at the University of California, Irvine, told Reuters Health. “That’s what this study essentially supports.”

All of the study’s authors have relationships with drug companies, some of which make stimulants. The lead author, Harvard University’s Dr. Joseph Biederman, was once called out by Iowa Senator Charles E. Grassley for the consulting fees he has received from such drug makers. The current study was funded by the government, a philanthropic fund, and the Eli Lilly and Company Foundation.

Swanson, who was not involved in the research, said that any long-term follow-up study like this one will lose some of its original subjects along the way, which could affect the results. The authors also point out that they couldn’t weigh and measure all the kids before they started taking medication, and they didn’t always know what dose of those medications kids were on.

Still, Swanson said, the study is interesting because it raises these questions, which can be addressed with further research. And to follow these kids for ten years, he said, was a substantial and significant effort.

Should Kids take Fish Oil Supplements?

All the talk about the benefits of omega-3s has parents asking whether CHILDREN should take fish oil supplements. Omega-3s are important for neurodevelopment … and they’re now showing up in many prenatal vitamins, infant formulas, and foods. Fish oil supplements for kids are often promoted as improving visual acuity, brain function, or intelligence.

But, according to the experts at the Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database, “there’s no proof that omega-3 supplements make kids ‘smarter’…or have any cognitive benefit in most kids.”

In fact, according to the NMCD, “… many of these claims will be removed … due to pressure from the feds.”

The NCMD recommends this to physicians and healthcare professionals who care for kids:

  • Tell parents that most kids don’t need fish oil supplements.
  • Instead, suggest that kids eat about 4 oz/week of fatty fish … such as canned light tuna, salmon burgers, etc. This provides about 250 mg/day of eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) plus docosahexaenoic acid (DHA).
  • Supplements may be worth a try for kids who don’t get enough omega-3s from diet … especially those with behavioral or psychiatric disorders as preliminary evidence suggests fish oil MIGHT benefit kids with ADHD symptoms … autism … depression … or those at high risk for psychosis.
  • Reassure parents that most fish oil supplements don’t contain mercury or harmful levels of PCBs. To be safe, suggest a “USP Verified” or “ConsumerLab” product.
  • Tell parents NOT to use cod liver oil, as it has too much vitamin A.
  • Tell parents NOT to use flaxseed, as it doesn’t contain the same omega-3s as fish oil.

Could ADHD medications cause sudden death in children?

A new study, published online in the American Journal of Psychiatry, concluded  that indicated that “the stimulants may be associated with sudden death.” If your child or teen has been prescribed stimulant medications for ADHD, what should you do?

More Information: Continue reading

USA Today calls for educating parents, teachers on benefits and risks of ADHD treatments.

USA Today editorializes, “Look around a school lunchroom these days and odds are that one out of every 20 boys (and one in 43 girls) will have been diagnosed with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder,” and “more than half of those boys will be on Ritalin (Methylphenidate), Concerta (methylphenidate) or Adderall (amphetamine and dextroamphetamine).” 

More Information: Continue reading

St. John’s Wort No Help in ADHD

ABC News reports a new study suggesting that St. John’s wort is not a useful treatment for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD. Although the researchers only studied 54 children between 6 and 17 years old who have ADHD for eight weeks, the study design was the gold standard randomized controlled trial. And, they found that St. John’s wort was no better than placebo when it came to improving the children’s attentiveness or hyperactivity.

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Dr. Walt’s Take on the Health Headlines – June 4, 2008

Here are my takes on some of today’s health headlines.

If Dad is not involved in child care, can we blame the mom?

Here’s one the major news outlets haven’t touched. Continue reading