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Is Nutrition Linked With ADHD Symptoms in Children?

August 14, 2018
Julie Carbray

In this occasional feature, members of the Psych Congress Steering Committee answer questions asked by audience members at Psych Congress meetings.

QUESTION: Can you describe any research on links between nutrition and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) symptoms in children?

Your Questions Answered logoANSWER: There is still a need for more controlled studies that investigate the effect of nutritional changes on symptoms of ADHD in children, however a nice review of current literature on this subject was published by Rytter and colleagues. 

In this comprehensive “state of the state” paper, the most promising evidence for nutritional modifications and positive impact upon ADHD symptoms included elimination diets (such as eliminating artificial food colorants and the “few foods diet,” which eliminates certain foods to determine effects on ADHD symptoms) and fish oil supplementation. However, the authors note that even these recommendations need more investigation before clinical practice recommendations can be made.

This systematic review of literature did not find enough research data to support novel diets, vitamin and mineral supplementation, or food supplements at this point. Expect to see more data on all of these dietary interventions in the future, as interest in more complementary medicine options are sought by families of children.

— Julie Carbray, PhD, FPMHNP, PMHCNS, Clinical Professor of Psychiatry and Nursing and Administrative Director, Pediatric Mood Disorder Program, University of Illinois at Chicago​


Rytter MJH, Andersen LBB, Houmann T, et al. Diet in the treatment of ADHD in children—A systematic review of the literature, Nordic Journal of Psychiatry, 2015;69(1):1-18.


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