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Pay Attention! Processed Foods May Lead To ADHD, Study Shows

A new study published this week found an association between "Western-style" diets and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in teens.

wendys bag and drinks in a car

Photo: Gabriel Saldana (flickr)

An Australian study found that being diagnosed with ADHD was associated with a "Western-style" diet, one where teens consumed a lot of fast food and other processed foods.

A new study published this week in the Journal of Attention Disorders found an association between “Western-style” diets and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in teens.

The study, conducted by the Perth (Australia) Telethon Institute for Child Health Research followed the dietary patterns of 1,800 adolescents and whether or not they had been diagnosed with ADHD by the age of 14.

The researchers classified the teens as eating either a “healthy” diet or a “western” diet. The “healthy” group at more fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grains and fish, while those eating a “Western” diet ate more fast food, processed, fried and refined foods.

Associate Professor Wendy Oddy, Leader of Nutrition studies at the Institute, told Science Daily:

When we looked at specific foods, having an ADHD diagnosis was associated with a diet high in takeaway foods, processed meats, red meat, high fat dairy products and confectionary. 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.

The study did not determine a causal relationship and the researchers noted that more research is needed to determine whether a poor diet could be the cause of ADHD or whether having ADHD might be the cause of choosing a less healthy diet.

Read More: Western Diet Link to ADHD, Australian Study Finds (Science Daily)

Adam Schweigert

Adam Schweigert is the Managing Editor and Senior Producer for Earth Eats. He is also the Online Director for Indiana Public Media (WFIU/WTIU) and has been with WFIU Public Radio since the fall of 2003, previously serving as Director of Multimedia Initiatives, Music Director and Arts Bureau Chief. He lives in Bloomington, Indiana with his dog Sydney.

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  • Drjroche

    That is NOT what the study says, that is a lie. There is causal relationship. Read the article, or would reading the article hurt your profit from your advertisers? Get a real science reporter who can read! Fast food is bad for your kids, but so is bad science!

  • Indiana Public Media

    The article notes that they did not find a causal relationship and that more research was needed (and that's how we reported it as well). Also, to be clear, we're a non-profit so we don't really have advertisers (we have underwriters, but they have no say over the content we produce)…not sure what you're getting at there.

  • Jennifer State

    This is why I like the Brain Balance approach to ADHD and other neuro disorders. They combine dietary changes that include the feingold diet with behavioral, therapeutic, and physical activity interventions for a whole person approach to the issue. I think their website is worth a read, particularly the “truth” section…

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