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Attention Deficit Disorder & Your Child’s Diet

Attention deficit disorder (ADD) and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) are neurological conditions characterized by developmentally unbalanced levels of attention, concentration, activity, distractibility, and impulsivity. Glucose is the brain’s main source of energy. With ADD and ADHD, brain regions that normally inhibit impulses and control attention utilize less glucose; this decreased activity in the brain leads to inattention.

Iron and Zinc deficiency cause abnormal activity in the brain which is another implication of ADD/ADHD in children. Also, children with ADD/ADHD may have low levels of certain fatty acids (including EPA and DHA) in their bodies. Most ADD/ADHD cases are identified by age 6 in children.

Nutritional Strategies:

    • The diet should contain a balanced and sufficient amount of protein for age and sex. Protein is an important resource for energy production.


    • Omit any food allergens that have been medically diagnosed and verified. Sugar consumption should be decreased to ensure adequate intake of other nutrients.


    • Supplemental use of EPA/DHA may be useful in some cases. Good sources of EPA/DHA are: tuna, mackerel, herring, sardines, and salmon.


    • While there is no benefit in reduction of specific carbohydrates, ensure a wholesome diet with plenty of whole grains, low-fat dairy, fruits and vegetables in greater proportion than sugary foods. This will provide more macronutrients and phytochemicals with potent antioxidant activity.


    • Correct iron deficiency anemia when indicated. Foods such as meats, poultry, fish, eggs, and iron-fortified cereals are good sources of iron.


    • Include adequate amounts of fats in the daily diet. Zinc intake may also play a role in managing ADD and ADHD.


  • Always consult a licensed nutritionist when making dietary decisions about your child’s health.

For more info on ADD and ADHD, visit the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) website.


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