A study uncovered the powerful effects of an elimination diet on children with ADHD. The study called, The Impact of Nutrition On Children with ADHD (INCA), was published in the Lancet in February 2011.
It is so wonderful to see a mainstream journal recognizing the powerful effects of diet on behavioral (and physical) symptoms and publish these findings. Many children with autism and well as their siblings have ADHD and would benefit from the recommendations noted from this study. As well as having an affect ADHD, elimination diets also have positive effect on many of the other symptoms of autism. As such, the INCA study is valuable insight in support of diet for children with autism, and I am glad it is finally reaching the mainstream.
An elimination diet for ADHD was among the first nutritional interventions I discovered over ten years ago when I first researched ADHD and food. Among my recommendations in my initial research paper was a trial of the removal of foods or food compounds that are suspected to be problematic – i.e. an “elimination” diet.
And indeed, the links noted between food and behavior are very apt to the entire autism spectrum. In fact, these early findings on ADHD became the basis for my book on nutrition for autism (Nourishing Hope for Autism
), because of the similarities in underlying causes and benefits of supportive diets.
I’m so passionate about helping children pursue their full potential that I’ve written another book “Use Food and Nutrition to Improve ADHD and Autism”
and created a nutrition course for parents
– to make the most of this approach! Both are great resources to help you learn how to boost your child’s diet in a way that nourishes hope.
While many parents have been seeing good results for years, doctors often demanded research before they could support the notion. Here’s that research.
One hundred children participated in the recent Lancet study. Half were assigned to each of two groups—50 children followed a 5-week elimination diet and 50 children were the control group (healthy) diet. Researchers began with a very elaborate elimination diet, and if behavioral problems still persisted after two weeks the particular child was put on an even more restrictive diet of only rice, turkey, pear, lettuce, and water
In the study, the elimination diet had a significant beneficial effect on the symptoms of ADHD in 64% (32 of 50) of children. Lead researcher, Dr. Lidy Pelsser, responded in an interview with NPR (National Public Radio) saying, “Well, what we know now is that in 64 percent of children with ADHD, ADHD is caused by food. It’s a hypersensitivity reaction to food.”
When asked about the response from teachers and physicians, she said, “Well, in fact, they were flabbergasted. After the diet, they were just normal children with normal behavior. They were no more easily distracted. They were no more forgetful. There were no more temper tantrums. Some teachers saying that they never thought it would work – it was so strange that a diet would change the behavior of a child as thoroughly as they saw it. It was a miracle, a teacher said.”
They achieved such positive results with children with ADHD that researchers concluded, it supported “the implementation of a dietary intervention in the standard of care for all children with ADHD.”
On the other hand, the study included dietary additions of foods based on particular results specific to individual IgG testing. This portion of the study did not reveal any efficacy of using food sensitivity testing. However, I wonder if because wheat was sometimes used in that rotation if it could be a factor in mixed results.
I hope that this is a step forward in the scientific world’s understanding of the benefit of strategic dietary intervention for psychiatric and behavioral condition including ADHD and autism. Every child benefits when parents eliminate problematic foods from their diet, and now this Lancet study helps substantiate that.
And let’s not forget adults, there are millions of adults with ADHD, and these principles apply to them as much as children. If you are an adult with ADHD, conduct your own trial of an elimination diet.
I look forward to the day when rates of ADHD decrease by using safe, natural methods—specifically diet—to mitigate symptoms and help more people live balanced and healthy lives.
If ADHD affects your family and you’d like to learn the specifics of improving your child’s behavior and learning through diet, be sure to check out my latest book “Use Food and Nutrition to Improve ADHD and Autism”
or sign up for my course
Pelsser LM, Frankena K, Toorman J, Savelkoul HF, Dubois AE, Pereira RR, Haagen TA, Rommelse NN, Buitelaar JK. Effects of a restricted elimination diet on the behaviour of children with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (INCA study): a randomised controlled trial. Lancet
. 2011 Feb 5;377(9764):494-503.
Pelsser LM, Frankena K, Buitelaar JK, Rommelse NN. Effects of food on physical and sleep complaints in children with ADHD: a randomised controlled pilot study. Eur J Pediatr
. 2010 Sep;169(9):1129-38. Epub 2010 Apr 17.