Restrictive Diet May Significantly Help ADHD

By Mike Howard


A study published in The Lancet has shown a restrictive diet may be helpful in reducing symptoms of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) in young children.

Study Particulars

  • 100 children between the ages of 4 and 8 were placed on a diet containing no processed foods for five weeks.
  • The restrictive diet began with a diet called the “few foods diet,” which includes just rice, meat, vegetables, pears and water. The researchers then complemented this diet with certain foods, such as potatoes, fruits and wheat.
  • ADHD symptoms diminished in 78 percent of them.
  • When suspected trouble foods were reintroduced into the diet, two-thirds of the children experienced a relapse in symptoms.

The study’s authors had this to say regarding the results;

A strictly supervised restricted elimination diet is a valuable instrument to assess whether ADHD is induced by food… We think that dietary intervention should be considered in all children with ADHD, provided parents are willing to follow a diagnostic restricted elimination diet for a five-week period, and provided expert supervision is available.

Children with ADHD have trouble focusing, paying attention and can be hyperactive.

Sugary foods have long been considered the prime culprit when it comes to hyperactivity, but the evidence in this department is scanty. Food additives, however, seem to be gaining ground as the prime dietary trigger for this disorder.


This research is promising as the results were quite significant. The primary issue, however is whether a) the diet will have sustained results, and b) parents and children alike will be able to follow through with this kind of restrictive eating.

It would make common sense to try and reduce the amount of processed foods in a child’s diet – regardless of whether they exhibit symptoms of ADHD. It would be interesting to have a third treatment arm with a moderate reduction in processed foods.

Image Credit: ADHD facts


  1. Becky

    I have a 9 year old granddaughter that is ADHD. She was on a medication all through last school year. This year we tried taking her off of it. She does Gymnastics, soccer and plays all kinds of other sports, but it has not helped her at all. We have tried other diets for her too. Her grades are getting lower and lower. We have now put her back on the medication and she is doing much better.

  2. Spectra

    My sister and brother both have ADD and were diagnosed with it back in the 90’s when it wasn’t as commonly diagnosed. My sis was on dexedrine for hers, but she didn’t like the side effects, so she stopped taking it. She also started eating healthier, avoiding processed foods, etc. and noticed that her symptoms were definitely not as bad. I definitely believe eating a lot of processed foods can be really bad for your brain chemistry. It’s just another sign that we as Americans need to drastically reformat our diets to get rid of the junk.

  3. Lestamore

    When I was growing up, my brother had ADHD to the point he was removed from school at age 8 in 1990. My mother was into health food, and at her Naturopath’s advice she removed dairy, corn products, refined sweeteners and artificial sweeteners from our diet. This really helped my brother, he was able to succeed at a new school, life was easier for the whole family, and although he had trouble finishing high school, today he is a veteran on his way to an engineering degree.

    I don’t doubt this study at all.

  4. Bonnie

    I was reading another article on MSN about whether exercise helps kids with ADHD. Unfortunately exercise doesn’t help their ADHD symptoms. It does help their confidence, and it keeps their bodies healthy in every other way. But I really think the food additives are a major issue.

  5. Healthy Hideout

    Thanks for a great write up – I have to say that I’m not surprised by the study particulars. I know a few close friends that don’t give or at least limit the amount of processed “goodies” they allow to their children. The results are quite plainly obvious – well behaved, they listen and they’re not unnecessarily hyper active.

    Information like this should be provided to new parents – It’s important!

  6. MichaelD

    Perhaps maybe if children ALSO got more exercise there might be a reduction in most of this nonsense. Burn off all that excess energy building up inside and you will have more relaxed and better disciplined children.

    It works for the Dog Whisperer when he trains dogs, and it can work for children as well. Get the exercise, discipline and concentration will improve, and you won’t have as many disgnosed ADHD cases.

    That’s not to say that some kids need medication, but I believe the majority of cases can be resolved with better eating habits and regular exercise.

    Most of the diagnosed cases of ADHD are boys, and with a bunch of these neuritic kids growing up on meds, this can’t be good for society as a whole. Exercise, play, disconnect, and stop eating crap, and many of these conditions can be reduced.