Healthy Diet May Help ADHD Children, Study Suggests

A steady diet of healthy foods may benefit children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), according to a new study.

An article published in the journal Pediatrics Monday compared the effectiveness of several dietary methods intended to replace medicinal treatments that have proven "unsatisfactory or unacceptable" for treating children with ADHD.

After analyzing 70 studies, researchers J. Gordon Millichap and Michelle M. Yee suggested a balanced diet heavy in fiber, folate and omega-3 fatty acids is most effective in decreasing effects of hyperactivity. Such a diet may include foods like fish, vegetables and whole grains, according to CBS News.

This particular study compared the effects of an "ADHD-associated 'Western-style'" diet, which tends to include a high amount of fat and refined sugar, to an "ADHD-free" assortment of healthier foods heavy in nutrients.

The review also examined several other diets, including the elimination diet, which avoids common food allergens like milk, nuts and eggs, and the Feingold diet, which avoids artificial coloring, artificial flavorings and some preservatives, USA Today reported. Researchers point out that these types of diets are often difficult to follow.

While scientists readily recognize the importance of a healthy diet, many still suggest changes in eating habits aren't always enough to improve behavior in children with ADHD, NPR reports. Instead, they suggest the nutritional changes should complement medicinal treatment.

Still, some parents might be reluctant to treat ADHD with medicine, and at least one doctor says he agrees with first taking a more natural approach.

"Before considering medication, it is always reasonable to try changes at home and in school, and often therapy," Dr. Robert Needlman told HuffPost blogger Earl Martin Phalen. "Home changes include making sure there are regular routines for meals, chores, homework, and bedtimes, healthy sleep habits, and healthy eating."

Nevertheless, Needlman does say that parents should consider a medicinal approach if symptoms of the disorder pose a threat to the child or his or her well-being.