Is The Food Supply Contributing to the ADHD Epidemic?

It seems to be quite obvious that the old adage “You Are What You Eat” has become more and more true in recent decades.

We are all more or less familiar with the concept of foods that are good for us and also with the idea that certain other foods can be detrimental to our health.

What most of us do not know is that the US food supply is chock-full with petroleum-based substances, artificial food dyes and even synthetic chemical pesticides. These are man-made additives that are introduced into our food in order to alter its natural qualities and, most commonly, to extend the shelf life of the products in question.

Startlingly, extensive research has shown that many of these additives are linked to many diseases and troubling conditions. In fact, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and other behavioral problems in children seem to be among the most prevalent of conditions linked to an adulterated food supply.

Parents are the only ones standing between their children and these common additives already present in many common foods. For those wishing to avoid them, purchasing organic foods seems to be the safest alternative.

Ironically, it was a 2007 study conducted by researchers at the University of Southampton in the UK that prompted a study by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) into the safety of artificial food dyes and a variety of pesticides. That study found a direct correlation between the habitual consumption of artificial additives and a spike in ADHD rate among young children.


Barely a year later, in 2008, the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) chose to  petition the FDA to ban nine specific color additives that had been the focus of the above mentioned UK study. The CSPI has not always shown adherence to the natural health movement and to some these recommendations came as a welcome move towards a safer, healthier food supply worldwide.

A different study published in the journal Pediatrics also found that sustained exposure to common organophosphate pesticides is strongly connected with higher levels of ADHD in children.

This study prompted the 2010 US President’s Cancer Panel Report to offer advice to consumers that urges them to avoid conventionally grown foods and to instead choose food grown without the use of chemical pesticides, growth hormones and other synthetic additives.

Christine Bushway, OTA’s Executive Director and CEO explained in response to this advice:

“Organic food production and processing represent the only system that uses certification and inspection to verify that synthetic food dyes and chemicals are not used. Those seeking to minimize their exposure to these chemicals can look for the USDA Organic label wherever they buy their food.”

These facts are a sobering reminder that ADD is not just genetic, as many would have us believe. There are significant environmental factors that can increase a person’s risk of being diagnosed with attention deficit disorder.

There are entire industries that wish to cover up this information. In this case, conventional agribusiness has a vested interest in the suppression of facts.

It is critical that the word gets out allowing parents to protect their children from chemical exposure wherever it may occur.

References:

FDA, “Quick Minutes: Food Advisory Committee Meeting March 30-31, 2011” http://www.fda.gov/advisorycommittees/ Accessed October 12, 2011

MedPageToday, “Food Dyes and Preservatives May Make Junior Act Up” http://www.medpagetoday.com/Psychiatry/ADHD-ADD/6610 Accessed October 12, 2011

Organic Trade Association, “Organic foods offer alternative to foods containing food dyes, pesticides linked to raising children’s risk of ADHD” http://www.organicnewsroom.com/2011/03/organic_foods_offer_alternativ.html Accessed October 12, 2011

CNN, “Study: ADHD linked to pesticide exposure” http://www.cnn.com/2010/HEALTH/05/17/pesticides.adhd/index.html Accessed October 12, 2011

Exercise is Essential for ADHD Patients

John Ratey M.D., an associate clinical professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School confirms that exercise should be a priority for ADHD patients.

“For a very small handful of people with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, it may actually be a replacement for stimulants. For most, it’s complementary — something they should absolutely do, along with taking meds, to help increase attention and improve mood.”

Unfortunately we think of exercise as a way to lose weight rather than a routine physical activity that protects the brain. “In fact, exercise turns on the attention system in the brain. This system is comprised by the so-called executive functions and they include sequencing, working memory, prioritizing, inhibiting, and sustaining attention.”

Dr. John Ratey is the author of the 2008 book titled Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain. In it he points out that “on a practical level, exercise causes kids to be less impulsive, which makes them more primed to learn.”

This is excellent news for parents of children with ADHD. It seems rather evident to experts in the field that exercise helps kids a great deal and it facilitates pushing through past failures and attempting things they didn’t succeed at before.

Exercise is an incredible confidence booster. It’s quite unfortunate that most ADHD kids believe that they are doomed to fail in school, in sports and even in life.


Dr. Ratey has conducted studies with lab mice that show that exercise reduces learned helplessness. He believes being aerobically fit is an antidote to learning and internalizing helplessness.

How does exercise deliver these benefits to the ADHD individual? It is a fact that when you walk, run or practice any form of aerobic exercise, your brain releases several important chemicals. Some of these substances called endorphins are hormone-like compounds that regulate mood, pleasure and pain.

In the same way, any burst of activity also elevates the levels of dopamine, norepinephrine and serotonin. These changes in the brain directly affect focus and attention which are in short supply in individuals with ADHD.

In particular, increased dopamine levels allow the brain to function in a regular and consistent fashion which, in turn, has many positive effects. In many patients, exercise alone can decrease the craving for new stimuli and raise alertness.

What is even better is that extreme intensity is not necessary. A mild level of exercise such as walking for 30 minutes, four times a week, will do the trick.

The key to maintaining the benefit is to get your child involved in something that he finds fun. Therefore, the activity is rewarding in itself and it does not become a chore. Team activities or exercise with a social component are especially beneficial for both kids and adults.

References:

ADDitude Magazine, “Exercise: An Alternative ADHD Treatment Without Side Effects” http://www.additudemag.com/adhd/article/3142.html Accessed October 8, 2011.

CogMed, “The Best Alternative Therapies for Managing ADHD Symptoms” http://www.cogmed.com/the-best-alternative-therapies-for-managing-adhd-symptoms Accessed October 8, 2011.

Fish Oil Supplements for a Healthy Brain

Among the many products on the market that advertise miraculous cures for almost any condition under the sun, there is no shortage that claim to be of benefit to those with ADHD.

It is true that different individuals respond differently to the same treatment, but there is a particular supplement that has remained uncontested as the best ADHD aid the world over. The product in question is the humble fish oil.

Chock full of omega 3 fatty acids, fish oil is extremely valuable as a preventative aid for a wide number of diseases. It is often combined with medications as part of a comprehensive protocol to fight against serious illnesses as well as chronic conditions.

No other supplement is so recognized as a major ally in the fight against brain deterioration and aging. There have been such a vast number of studies that its benefits are quite indisputable and are accepted by medical professionals everywhere.

A most revealing study was done at the University of South Australia. Researchers there tested a combination of omega-3 fish oil and evening primrose oil which is rich in omega-6 oil. In the study, 132 children with ADHD, ranging in age from seven to 12 were given this combination of oils. After the 30-week study ended, half of the parents reported that their children’s symptoms were improved and changes in behavior were noticeable.


During the study, the kids were divided into three groups. Throughout the first 15 weeks, the first group took the fish oil/primrose oil combination. The second group took the same combination plus a multivitamin/mineral supplement and a third group took a placebo. For the second 15 weeks, the kids on the placebo got the fish oil/primrose oil combination plus the multivitamin/mineral as well.

The results correlated to the amount of time the children were given the fish oil supplements. A 40% to 50% improvement in behavior for the two 30-week fish-oil groups was estimated. A 30% to 40% improvement for the 15-week group was also noticed. Compared with results of studies of Ritalin and Concerta, the drugs most often prescribed for ADHD, they found that fish oils were, in fact, more effective.

It has been reported that levels of omega-3s in the plasma and red blood cells of children with ADHD are significantly lower than in kids who don’t exhibit symptoms of the disorder. Since many parents make it a priority to find an alternative to stimulant drugs, it is vitally important that this information be known to them.

While Ritalin can have excellent results in some cases, it has been over-prescribed for a long time now. We must not forget that with a few benefits come many risks of such serious long term side effects as loss of appetite, insomnia, changes in personality and heart damage. There is also some evidence that it can stunt growth when the drug is taken from a very early age.

Therefore, it is generally recommended by pediatricians that a quality multivitamin as well as a good pro-biotic be taken along with a quality fish oil supplement. Most importantly, always make sure that you are purchasing a high quality, mercury-free, fresh fish oil that will deliver the most benefit to your child’s brain. To purchase the fish oil brand I recommend click here.

Cold Hard Facts About ADHD in the United States

The American Psychiatric Association recently stated in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV-TR) an astounding finding regarding ADHD.

Its newly gathered data showed that 3%-7% of school-aged children have ADHD. Furthermore, several other studies simultaneously estimated even higher rates in community samples.

When parents were surveyed to better estimate the incidence of this disorder, the results were as follows:

  • Close to 9.5% or 5.4 million children 4-17 years of age have been diagnosed with ADHD in one point of their lives, as of 2007.
  • The number of children with a parent-reported ADHD diagnosis increased by 22% between 2003 and 2007.
  • Rates of ADHD diagnosis increased an average of 3% per year from 1997 to 2006 and an even more severe 5.5% per year from 2003 to 2007.
  • In general, boys(13.2%) were much more likely than girls (5.6%) to receive a diagnosis of ADHD from a healthcare provider.
  • Interestingly, rates of verified ADHD increased at a greater rate among older teens compared to younger children.
  • The highest rates of parent-reported ADHD diagnosis appeared among children covered by Medicaid as well as multiracial children.

  • Parent-reported ADHD diagnosis varied in frequency depending on geographic factors. Nevada reported a 5.6% while North Carolina reported a record 15.6%.

Medicating Our Youth

  • In 2007, 2.7 million children ages 4-17 years were receiving medication treatment for the disorder. That is an estimated 66.3% of those with a current diagnosis.
  • Children aged 11-17 years of age received medication more often than those 4-10 years of age. Boys are 2.8 times more likely to take medication than girls.
  • In 2003, geographic variability indicated that medication was used most prevalently in Arkansas (6.5%) and least in in California (2.1%)

ADHD and Peers

  • Parents of children diagnosed with ADHD report almost 3 times as many peer problems as those without a history of ADHD.
  • Parents also report that children with a documented history of ADHD are 10 times more likely to have difficulties that interfere with friendships.

Accident Prone

  • A higher percentage of parents of children with attention-deficit and hyperactivity disorder reported non-fatal injuries for otherwise healthy children.
  • Children diagnosed with ADHD were more likely to have major injuries that sometimes required hospital inpatient care as well as hospital outpatient and/or emergency department admission.
  • Data from international sources clearly suggest that young people with high levels of ADHD related difficulties are at greater risk of involvement in a motor vehicle crash, drinking and driving, and traffic violations.

These are all sobering statistics that urge parents to take a closer look at a problem that can and should be treated in order to improve the quality of life of the child as well as the family as a whole.

References:

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “Attention-Deficit / Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)” http://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/adhd/data.html Accessed September 27, 2011.

American Psychiatric Association, “Diagnostic and Statistical Manual” http://www.psych.org/MainMenu/Research/DSMIV.aspx Accessed September 27, 2011.

What is ADHD

What is ADHD? An Overview – Part 2

What is ADHDADHD Treatment

Successfully treating ADHD takes focus and guidance on the part of the parents. A strong partnership between the health care provider, parents or caregivers, and the child is essential.

For therapy to succeed, it is very important to set specific, appropriate goals to be followed by everyone involved.

A combination approach that includes medication and behavior therapy has a higher rate of success than either one of these tools alone.

Regular medical follow-ups are needed to check on goals, results and any possible side effects if medications have been prescribed. These check-ups are vital in order for the doctor to update information from parents, teachers and also the child.

In the event that treatment does not appear to work, the health care provider should reconsider the original diagnosis to verify that the child indeed has ADHD. In addition, it is wise to check for possible medical conditions that can cause similar symptoms but need to be treated differently. Furthermore, always make sure that the treatment plan is being followed as indicated by the physician.

Medication

Nothing is as controversial in the field of ADHD studies as the use (or misuse) of medications. Experts believe that a combination of medication and behavioral treatment works best for most patients. To further improve the chances of success, there are now several different types of ADHD medications in the market that may be used alone or in combination.

Stimulants are the most commonly used ADHD drugs. They have been prescribed the longest and their side effects have also been observed for a long time. Although these drugs are called stimulants, they actually have a calming effect on the brains of individuals with ADHD.

The most commonly prescribed drugs in this category are amphetamine (Adderall), dexmethylphenidate (Focalin), dextroamphetamine (Dexedrine, Dextrostat), lisdexamfetamine (Vyvanse) and methylphenidate (Ritalin, Concerta, Metadate, Daytrana).


There is currently a non-stimulant drug called atomoxetine (Strattera) that appears to work as well as stimulants and is less likely to be misused by patients.

Many parents faced with the prospect of medicating their children are concerned about ADHD medicines because some have been linked to rare sudden death in children with heart problems. Always talk to your doctor about which drug is best for your child.

Therapy and Changes to Family Routine

Do not overlook the importance of talk therapy for both the child and the family. It can help everyone understand the situation and gain control of the stressful feelings related to ADHD.

When parents realize that there are modifications they can make, such as a system of rewards and consequences, they feel empowered and in control again. As a result, they can better guide their child’s behavior by learning to handle disruptive behaviors. Support groups can help you connect with others who have similar problems.

Other useful ways to help your child with ADHD include making a point to communicate regularly with the child’s teacher as well as keeping a consistent daily schedule, including regular times for homework, meals, and outdoor activities. ADHD children also benefit from limited distractions in the child’s environment such as restricted access to TV or video games.

Always make sure the child gets a healthy diet with the inclusions of fruits, vegetables and fish. Regular patterns of sleep are key to a healthy brain in both children and adults. Try to “catch” your child doing things right. Always praise and reward good behavior.

It will be easier for the child to fulfill your expectations if you provide him or her with clear, concise guidelines.

References:

National Institute of Health, MedlinePlus. “Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)” http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/001551.htm Accessed September 21, 2011.