Processed meat, chips and soft drinks linked to ADHD

Around one in 20 children experience ADHD. Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, generally known as ADHD, is the most commonly diagnosed mental health disorder in children. Children with ADHD can show symptoms such as inattention, impulsive behaviour and hyperactivity.

Although the condition is often detected in children, ADHD often persists through to adolescence and into adulthood. Many scientific studies have shown a link between ADHD and food additives or nutrients, but until now, there hasn’t been through research on whole dietary patterns and ADHD.

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In a recent Australian study, researchers looked at the diets of almost 1800 adolescents to see whether there were any links between ADHD in children who ate a “healthy” diet compared to those who ate a typical “Western” diet.

The “healthy” diet was high in omega-3, fibre and folate and low in saturated fat and sugar. People consuming this pattern had high intakes of fruit, vegetables, legumes and whole grains.

The Western dietary pattern was high in fat, saturated fat, refined sugar and salt. This pattern included foods such as processed meats, confectionary, takeaway foods, chips and soft drinks.

When comparing the two styles of eating, it was found that the Western diet was linked with ADHD. Teenagers consuming the high-energy, highly processed foods were more than twice as likely to have ADHD compared to people eating wholesome foods.

There are a number of reasons the Western diet was shown to be linked with ADHD. A higher intake of food additives, lower levels of omega-3 fats, or lower intakes of vitamins and minerals important for brain functioning are just a few. Although more studies on this subject are needed, this still gives another reason to aim for an eating style rich in nutritious whole foods including plenty of fruits, vegetables, wholegrains, legumes, nuts and seeds.

Related video: Dr Natalie Sinn joins the TODAY show, with research indicating that Omega 3 might hold some answers for ADHD sufferers.

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