Can eliminating foods cure ADD?

Does the elimination of certain foods from the diet successfully treat ADD?

There is no clear-cut evidence that the elimination of food additives and refined sugars from the diet produces long-term positive effects. However, many of the parents of my ADD patients will give testimonials that they noticed at least some short-lived improvement in their child’s behavior when they tried such a diet.

image source: Sofia Smith via Flickr

image source: Sofia Smith via Flickr

The reasons for this apparent positive effect are complex. First, whenever we try something that we have some degree of hope or confidence in, we are bound to see some positive effects, even if it is only for a short period of time. This placebo effect is a very real and powerful force with all treatments, including diets.

Second, in order to maintain the rigorous dietary restrictions required by these diets, parents generally need to become much more structured just to find the time to shop for and prepare foods. This increased organization is bound to rub off on the ADD child who benefits from almost any type of structured management.

Finally, there are probably some children who are, in fact, more sensitive to certain foodstuffs even if it cannot be documented in a highly controlled scientific study.

Most of us as parents have been to a birthday party where “all hell broke loose” when the cake and ice cream were served. Many of us have also experienced some type of fatigue and letdown a half hour after eating a lunch high in sugar content. Such personal experiences give credence to the belief that what we eat does affect how we behave.

However, going too far with dietary restrictions can be unhealthy, physically and psychologically, as well as, very expensive.

Therefore, my advice to parents and individuals with ADD is to exercise good common sense. Too many refined sugars and food additives are not good for anyone; however, going overboard to eliminate them is unrealistic in contemporary society.


Our current blog series is excerpted from Dr. Liden’s best-selling book, Pay Attention!: Answers to Common Questions About the Diagnosis and Treatment of Attention Deficit Disorder.

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About cblmd

medical director of the being well center, ADHD expert, speaker, and author

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