Mediterranean Diet Might Help Prevent ADHD

Researchers in Spain found the MedDiet may offer a protective effect against ADHD, a disorder for which stimulant drugs are often prescribed.

By Mary West
Feb. 14, 2017 09:01 UTC

Children across the coun­try with atten­tion deficit hyper­ac­tiv­ity dis­or­der (ADHD) are com­monly pre­scribed med­ica­tions that carry an array of side effects. Is it pos­si­ble that fol­low­ing the Mediterranean diet (MedDiet) might help pre­vent the mal­ady?

A new study at the University of Barcelona in Spain sought the answer to the ques­tion by inves­ti­gat­ing the eat­ing habits of 120 par­tic­i­pants between the ages of 6 and 16, half of whom had been diag­nosed recently with ADHD. The youth were required to report the foods that com­prised their typ­i­cal meals. The data obtained was used to deter­mine the dif­fer­ence in the degree of adher­ence to the MedDiet between those with and with­out the dis­or­der.

Many of the typ­i­cal med­ica­tions for ADHD might be inter­preted to have a risk-to-ben­e­fit ratio that causes pause.- Michael Wald, Integrated Nutrition

Of the youth with ADHD, 30 per­cent fol­lowed the MedDiet well; while of the youth with­out the dis­or­der, 63 per­cent fol­lowed it well. In gen­eral, those with ADHD ate fewer fruits, veg­eta­bles, and fatty fish, in addi­tion to more fast food and junk food. The authors con­cluded that par­tic­i­pants with low to medium adher­ence to the MedDiet had a three- to seven-times greater risk of ADHD.

Although the results don’t prove poor eat­ing habits cause ADHD, they do show they may play an impor­tant role. Our data sup­port the notion that not only spe­cific nutri­ents’ but also the whole diet’ should be con­sid­ered in ADHD,” the authors wrote. The study was pub­lished in Pediatrics.

Widely lauded for its broad ben­e­fits, the MedDiet con­sists of fruits, veg­eta­bles, beans, nuts, whole grains and olive oil. In addi­tion, fish is pre­ferred over poul­try and red meat, while herbs and spices are favored over salt.

To gain per­spec­tive on issues relat­ing to the study, Olive Oil Times inter­viewed Michael Wald, direc­tor of longevity ser­vices at Integrated Nutrition in Mount Kisco, New York. His insights reveal the value of address­ing ADHD through holis­tic means that pri­mar­ily involve diet.

Olive Oil Times: Could you spec­u­late on why the Mediterranean diet seems to have some pro­tec­tive effect against ADHD?

Wald: ADHD is known to involve abnor­mal­i­ties in the cell mem­brane struc­ture of brain neu­rons. These cells are party com­posed of unsat­u­rated fat that includes omega 3 fatty acids, which pro­vide neu­ro­pro­tec­tion’ and afford the brain and ner­vous sys­tem the abil­ity to self-cor­rect.

The MedDiet is par­tic­u­larly high in healthy fat, as it includes the omega 3 fatty acids from fish, along with the monoun­sat­u­rated fatty acids found in avo­ca­dos and olive oil. These fats become incor­po­rated into the brains of those with ADHD, poten­tially improv­ing mem­ory, atten­tion, mood, behav­ior and even learn­ing.

Because the MedDiet has extremely low lev­els of sat­u­rated fat from meat, which hard­ens’ the brain and ner­vous sys­tem, it is fur­ther pro­tec­tive. Moreover, sat­u­rated fat is proven to reduce cir­cu­la­tion and nutri­tional deliv­ery to cells, as well as pro­mote inflam­ma­tion – prob­lems char­ac­ter­is­tic of many suf­fer­ers of ADHD.

Consuming high quan­ti­ties of fruits and veg­eta­bles con­tained within the MedDiet pro­vides tens of thou­sands of plant phy­tonu­tri­ents that are potent antiox­i­dants, cell mem­brane sta­bi­liz­ers, detox­i­fiers, and immune-mod­u­la­tors. In short, they are absolutely required for opti­miz­ing over­all health and well­be­ing.”

Olive Oil Times: What do you find most trou­bling about the heavy reliance on med­ica­tions for ADHD?

Wald: Contrary to pop­u­lar belief, these med­ica­tions haven’t been well stud­ied in chil­dren. In fact, to my knowl­edge, no long-term stud­ies are avail­able. Even if they were, holis­tic com­mon sense tells us that chil­dren do not have drug-defi­cien­cies.’

This means that health pro­fes­sion­als should first look to the poten­tial influ­ence of stress, diet, increased nutri­tional needs, genet­ics, hid­den infec­tions, tox­ins, diges­tive mal­ab­sorp­tion issues, inflam­ma­tory con­di­tions and other factors/causes of ADHD. Many of these may be ade­quately mod­i­fied with an over­haul of food intake and envi­ron­ment adjust­ments. Medications com­monly have risks, and many of the typ­i­cal med­ica­tions for ADHD might be inter­preted in cer­tain indi­vid­u­als with ADHD to have a risk-to-ben­e­fit ratio that causes pause.”


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