The relationship between attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and eating habits in children


According to the DSM-5 diagnostic criteria manual, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is an ongoing disorder that negatively affects daily functioning and development, and is characterized by inattention, hyperactivity and impulsivity. The inability to pay attention manifests itself behaviorally and has features such as not being able to focus on a particular job and having trouble maintaining continuity. Hyperactivity, another characteristic of ADHD, has features such as excessive and inappropriate motor activity, tic behaviors, and talkativeness. Finally, impulsivity is a condition associated with reward-oriented, thoughtless behaviors that are done to achieve the desired and that may harm others.

Many conduct disorders in children are comorbid with ADHD. Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), one of the comorbid disorders, is a disorder that should not be confused with ADHD, although it shares features such as inability to pay attention, social dysfunction, and difficulty in controlling impulsive behaviors. Individuals with ASD show these symptoms due to the difficulties they experience in adapting to external conditions and are also exposed to the consequences arising from these symptoms due to the difficulties mentioned. In individuals with ADHD, this is due to impulsivity. Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD) is another disorder comorbid with ADHD. A negative and hostile opposition to the rules and the wishes of others is observed in individuals diagnosed with ODD. This situation should not be confused with the problem of not being able to fulfill the task that is seen in individuals diagnosed with ADHD.

The age of the child diagnosed is an important factor in the treatment of ADHD. While behavioral therapy is recommended in the presence of parents and teachers in preschool children, drug use is more preferred in school-age children. Since it is a neurological disorder, stimulant drugs are very effective in reducing ADHD symptoms. Despite this competence, drug use is a worrying situation for parents and is sometimes not preferred.

Most parents who do not want their children to use drugs turn to alternative treatment methods. A number of alternative methods can give positive results, provided that they are not used as a stand-alone treatment method. Among these alternative methods is the method of removing or restricting certain items from the daily diet of children. Millichap and Yee (2012) studied the relationship between ADHD and eating habits in the context of causality and treatment, stating that it is a controversial issue in the literature. In the studies examined in the literature review, a nutritional list consisting of additives, salicylate, ketogenic substance, fatty acid-free and sugar-restricted foods was used. On the other hand, the list includes foods with OMEGA 3 and 6 supplements.

Children with ADHD symptoms who took OMEGA 3 and 6 supplements showed an improvement in the three-month period, while no change was observed in the control group who did not take this supplement. When the relationship between ADHD and sugar consumption was examined, it was found that sugar consumption did not cause aggression in individuals, but prolonged the duration of aggression. Iron and zinc deficiency have also been found to be associated with ADHD. At the end of the study, diets with supportive (like OMEGA 3 and 6) nutrients among the investigated diets were found to be suitable instead of a diet without additives, as they are easier and less costly to implement for parents.


American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (DSM-5) . American Psychiatric Pub.

Attention-Deficit, SO (2011). ADHD: clinical practice guideline for the diagnosis, evaluation, and treatment of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder in children and adolescents. Pediatrics, peds-2011.

Millichap, JG, & Yee, MM (2012). The diet factor in attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder. Pediatrics, 129(2), 330-337.

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