Chemicals in Food Increases Risk of ADHD in Children

By Martha H. Howard MD

Moms, if your child was recently diagnosed with ADHD or you suspect he or she might have ADHD, the food they are eating could be to blame. A Canadian study done this year proves that pesticides on food nearly double the risk of ADHD in children?

Certain foods and additives have already been linked to ADHD, but it is equally important to be concerned about ADHD in relationship to pesticide residues on foods, as well as what is in foods.

A spring 2010 study at the University of Montreal showed that children with high levels of pesticides in their urine had nearly double the risk of being diagnosed with ADHD compared with children with no traceable levels of chemicals.

Malathion, a widely overused lawn, garden, and agricultural chemical was one of the main culprits. Our own National Academy of Sciences measured concentrations of malathion on fruit and vegetable samples in 2008, and found that 28% of frozen blueberry samples, 25% of fresh strawberry samples, and 19 % of celery samples here in the United States had detectable concentrations of malathion.

ADD/ADHD Prevention Tip #1

Keep away from chemicals! Buy organic as much as possible, and wash all produce (including organic) with a good fruit and vegetable wash. Just running a little water over it is not enough.

What about food additives and foods themselves? Another good study from Australia, done at Perth’s Telethon Institute for Child Health Research, classified dietary patterns of 1800 teenagers from an 18 year ongoing study into “healthy” and “Western” diets. The “healthy” pattern was high in fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains and fish. The “Western” pattern was high in fast foods, processed meats, red meat, dairy, and sweets.

The 115 children from the study who were diagnosed with ADHD by age 14 were highly associated with the “Western” diet. This brings us to our second prevention tip:

ADD/ADHD Prevention Tip #2

Once again, Keep away from chemicals! Eat a diet high in fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, and organic meat, fish or chicken.

Avoid fast foods, processed meats (with their MSG, nitrites, nitrates and other chemical additives), red meat, non-organic dairy (with bovine growth hormone, antibiotic and pesticide content) and sweets (with chemically refined sugars, artificial flavorings and dyes.)

Bottom line is, make sure foods are free from chemicals!

• Pesticides,

• Additives (MSG, aspartame, “modified food starch”, “hydrolyzed vegetable proteins” “dough conditioners” “Mono and di-glycerides” etc.)

• Processing chemicals (nitrites, nitrates)

• Artificial flavors

• Food dyes (FD & C red, yellow, blue, etc.)

And, what you do eat is as important as what you don’t eat. You and your children need plenty of real food that contains the micronutrients that keep your brain on the right track: fresh fruits, vegetables, good fats, organic fish, chicken or meats, beans, and whole grains.

Dr. Howard combines Traditional Chinese Medicine–including traditional acupuncture, laser acupuncture and herbal medicine–family practice, environmental and preventive medicine, guided imagery, and sound-based therapies in her practice. She is a pioneer in the field of integrative medicine, which she has been practicing since l982. An administrator, teacher and speaker as well as a clinician, she is Medical Director of Wellness Associates of Chicago.

Dr. Howard has a Master’s Degree from Harvard University in Chinese Language and Literature and an M.D. from Loyola University Stritch School of Medicine. She was a board member for three years of the American Association of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine, and was a board member for ten years of the National Institute for the Clinical Application of Behavioral Medicine. Dr. Howard is the author of a Wellness CD series, Power of Suggestion, and is a teacher of Tibetan Yoga.

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