Results of a new Australian study suggest that a child’s dietary habits may increase or reduce their risk of developing attention deficit hyperactive disorder (ADHD).
For the study, a group of nutritionists from Perth’s Telethon Institute for Child Health Research analyzed the eating habits of more than 1,800 adolescents.
Children who often consumed processed and fried foods high in saturated fat, total fat and sodium were placed in the "Western" diet group. Adolescents who ate a nutrient-rich diet loaded with fruits, vegetables, fish and whole grains made up the "healthy" diet group.
Over the course of the study, a total of 115 children were diagnosed with ADHD, with the majority of these individuals being boys.
After taking into account several risk factors—including social and family influences—the research team found that children who consumed a Western-style diet had double the risk of being diagnosed with the disorder, compared with those that ate foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids, folate and fiber.
"We suggest that a Western dietary pattern may indicate the adolescent has a less optimal fatty acid profile, whereas a diet higher in omega-3 fatty acids is thought to hold benefits for mental health and optimal brain function," said lead author Wendy Oddy.
However, "it may also be that impulsivity, which is a characteristic of ADHD, leads to poor dietary choices such as quick snacks when hungry," she added.