Diet Change Improves Behavior in ADHD Kids


ADHDAlisa Fleming ~ According to researchers in the Netherlands, placing children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) on a ‘low allergy’ diet can improve symptoms substantially in about three-fourths of all cases.

The ‘low allergy’ diet, also known as an elimination diet, includes basic foods that are known for having a very low incidence of food allergic reactions, such as rice, turkey, lamb, vegetables (lettuce, carrots, cauliflower, cabbage and beetroot), pears and water.

Their study involved 100 children between the ages of 4 and 8. Half of the kids followed the “control” diet, which was a standard “healthy” diet for children (healthy was not defined), and the other half were to follow the elimination diet. 41 of the kids completed the 5-week elimination diet, and 32 of those children responded very well (in other words, symptoms were rated at least 40 percent lower than they were at the start of the study). On the contrary, none of the kids following the “control” diet reported significant changes.

And while these results are very promising, here’s where it gets interesting for those who are familiar with food allergy testing …

The idea of an elimination diet isn’t to stay on that restricted diet forever. Rather, other foods are reintroduced, one at a time, and the patient is monitored to see if any symptoms return. Foods that are deemed okay are returned to the diet, but problematic foods are identified and remain out of the diet to prevent symptoms from returning. These problematic foods are often labeled as “trigger” foods or described as food allergies or sensitivities.

In an effort to identify which foods had a higher probability as trigger foods, the children received an IgG blood test. This test, which has become more popular with complementary medicine practitioners in recent years, shows blood levels of an immune system antibody called immunoglobulin G (IgG) for a wide panel of foods. In theory, a high IgG increase in response to a certain food would indicate a food allergy or sensitivity.

Of the 32 children who were successful with the elimination diet, 30 were then subjected to a "challenge," which involved them having foods reintroduced into their diets. The foods were unique to each child, and based upon their IgG test results. In half the 30 cases, the children were given three foods that triggered a big increase in IgG levels, followed by three foods that triggered a small increase in IgG levels. In the other half of the children, low IgG foods were given first, followed by high IgG foods. 19 of the 30 children experienced an increase in their ADHD symptoms after those particular foods were reintroduced, but that there was no significant difference between the groups given high IgG or low IgG foods first.

The researchers concluded that the elimination diet was effective for many, but there was little validity to the practice of eliminating foods solely on the basis of IgG blood tests.

"A strictly supervised restricted elimination diet is a valuable instrument to assess whether ADHD is induced by food," wrote the study authors. "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," they concluded.

Results of the study are published in the Feb. 5 issue of The Lancet.


Article by Alisa Fleming, founder of, blogger at Alisa Cooks, and author of Go Dairy Free: The Guide and Cookbook for Milk Allergies, Lactose Intolerance, and Casein-Free Living. Alisa is also a freelance writer for several publications, with an emphasis on creating recipes for various types of special diets.

Photo Credit: Pharmacy Times

About Author

Alisa is the founder of, Food Editor for Allergic Living magazine, and author of the best-selling dairy-free book, Go Dairy Free: The Guide and Cookbook for Milk Allergies, Lactose Intolerance, and Casein-Free Living, and the new cookbook, Eat Dairy Free: Your Essential Cookbook for Everyday Meals, Snacks, and Sweets. Alisa is also a professional recipe creator and product ambassador for the natural food industry.

1 Comment

  1. Sun Lindell on

    Academic difficulties are also frequent. The symptoms are especially difficult to define because it is hard to draw a line at where normal levels of inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity end and clinically significant levels requiring intervention begin. To be diagnosed with ADHD, symptoms must be observed in two different settings for six months or more and to a degree that is greater than other children of the same age.

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