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Books I recommend:

edtrait

The Edison Trait: Saving the Spirit of Your Nonconforming Child (Dynamos, Discoverers and Dreamers)

 

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Beyond ADD: Hunting for Reasons in the Past & the Present by Thom Hartmann

 

The Minds of Boys:
Saving our Sons from Falling Behind in School and Life

The ADD Nutrition Solution

More   books...

 

 

Nutrition

People labeled ADD are often unusually sensitive to diet and nutrition.  For example, they may metabolize fats and carbohydrates differently than other people, or may react to food additives when others are fine.  Popular processed foods are just full of unhealthy or non-nutritional ingredients. Unfortunately, the health care system in the U.S. (or most other countries) is not set up to identify nutritional deficiencies or allergies that might be affecting you or your child.  Physicians who do not keep up with new studies are likely to discount the role of nutrition, health insurance companies could care less, and even your local public school is likely to circumvent your efforts in addressing nutrition. 

Explorer Blood
Type Poll


If you are ADD and live in the US or Canada, what is your blood type?

Type O
Type A
Type B
Type AB


Current Results

Type O (44% in US) is the original blood type of hunter/gatherers; Type A (42%) evolved rapidly with the arrival of agriculture and is most common in western Europe, the Mediterranean and Japan; Type B (10%) is very common in Asian and Jewish population; Type AB (4%) is rare throughout the world.

Especially overlooked is the role of nutrition and allergies with regard to adult ADD, depression and anxiety.  Most of the studies involve children. But there is no magic moment where nutrition suddenly doesn't matter.   On the contrary, adults have to deal with potential deterioration of brain function related to aging.  For example, women's estrogen levels begin dropping in their mid-thirties, which impacts the brain, and damage from free-radicals slowly tears apart the brain of older folks who don't consume lots of antioxidants.

Most so-called experts in ADD are surprisingly ignorant about nutrition and allergies, but they are quick to say these issues are not important.  But there are plenty of recent studies on nutrition, and the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) reviewed 25 years of scientific studies and determined that a significant number of people DO react to certain foods and food additives.   I have added a page specifically about allergies that you should take a look at.  This rest of this particular page will focus on nutrition.

Examples of some recent studies:

  • A 1994 study at Purdue University found that boys diagnosed with ADHD had      lower levels of the omega-3 essential fatty acid DHA (American Journal of Clinical Nutrition)
  • 1997 study found that 95% of ADHD children tested were deficient in magnesium (Magnesium Research, 1997,10)
  • A 1996 study found that ADHD children had zinc levels that were only 2/3 the level of those without ADHD (Biological Psychiatry 40, 1996)

Scientists have also discovered that the brain is much more plastic and vulnerable to environmental factors than we used to think.  They used to say that once your brain was formed, there was little that could influence it.   Remember learning that you were born with a certain number of brain cells and that's all you were ever going to have? Not true! Now they say that your brain cells are routinely replaced with new cells, and new neural connections are constantly being made as we learn new things. 

Our neurons "talk" to each other through a delicate system that employs a chemically induced electrical impulse to send messages.   This system involves neurotransmitters like dopamine and serotonin and neuroreceptors to receive the signals.  The cell membranes and synaptic endings of this system are composed of DHA, an omega-3 essential fatty acid.  These membranes go rancid unless protected with antioxidants. Since most people don't get enough DHA, other types of fats are incorporated into the brain, but they do not function as well because they are the wrong shape. And the all-important neurotransmitters are manufactured by the body from dietary precursors.  In order for this to occur, the B vitamins, magnesium, zinc, and Vitamin C must all be present in sufficient amounts.  These neurotransmitters are:

Neurotransmitter Role
Norepinephrine and Dopamine Control attention and hyperactivity. Dopamine is the "feel good" chemical. Low levels may be experienced as restless boredom.  Stimulating environments increase both chemicals.
Serotonin (5-HTP) Implicated in depression, aggression, sleep, chronic pain, impulsivity, anxiety, eating disorders, regulating body temperature.   Very low levels may induce suicidal or violent thoughts. 
Acetylcholine Memory

Carbohydrate intolerance: In one study, average and ADD children were fed a drink containing glucose, a simple sugar that is absorbed immediately into the bloodstream.   All carbohydrates, including complex carbohydrates like whole wheat, are broken down into glucose.  Both sets of children experienced a sharp increase in blood sugar. Both sets also experienced a sharp increase in blood insulin levels, and then a corresponding drop in blood sugar levels. This decrease in insulin normally triggers an increase in the hormones epinephrine and Norepinephrine, which increase glucose entry into the brain to compensate for the drop in blood sugar.  In the ADD children, the expected rise in these two hormones was only 50% that of the average children (Journal of Pediatric Research, Oct. 1995). Norepinephrine is a "fight or flight" neurotransmitter that increases alertness and the flow if information between brain cells.  The ADHD kids weren't getting as much of this neurotransmitter in their brain because of their response to blood sugar. Moreover, Norepinephrine is a precursor of dopamine, the primary neurotransmitter implicated in ADD.  And one of the most commonly cited proofs used to demonstrate ADD is a brain defect are pictures showing reduced glucose metabolism in the brain.  It's possible that such pictures are not showing some kind of permanent neurological defect that requires medication, but rather a simple manifestation of reactive hypoglycemia that can be mitigated with dietary changes.  I have an entire page devoted to this subject at borntoexplore.org/lowfat.htm.

Some studies have also shown a strong relationship between fatty acid deficiencies and ADD, learning disorders, and behavior problems.  This problems is so severe I've written a special page on it (borntoexplore.org/omega.htm).   Interestingly, fatty acid deficiencies have also been linked to reactive hypoglycemia, described in the previous paragraph, as well as allergies and asthma, also associated with ADHD.

Dietary changes frequently recommended include:

  • Provide fatty acid supplements (as in fish oil, flax oil, DHA/EPA supplements, primrose oil, Efalex, or Focus).  For more info on fatty acids click here.
  • Adjust the types of fats your family eats (good fats are olive oil, fish oil, canola oil and flax oil; reduce all others). This is also excellent for your heart and reduces the risk of cancer.
  • Ban or sharply limit trans-fats (man-made hydrogenated oils which can be incorporated into your brain structure).  These fats are also worse for your heart than saturated fats and are potential carcinogens.  Trust me, they will be banned within 10 years because they are so bad, yet processed foods are just FULL of them.
  • Check for food allergies
  • Avoid food additives and highly processed foods
  • Supplement with a high quality multivitamin that contains trace minerals and  other supplements, especially calcium, magnesium, zinc, and B vitamins (see below),
  • In order to stabilize blood sugar, reduce the amount of sugar, grains, pasta, and breads your child eats and increase the amount of fruits and vegetables.  Avoid large meals and fasting. Frequent small meals and snacks are much better.  Balance your calories with each meal: 40% carbohydrates, 30% lean protein and 30% good fats. For more on this click here.

I've been reading a lot of books and studies about nutrition and there is one book that seems to combine most of what the other books say and is written specifically about ADD.  This book is The ADD Nutrition Solution by Marcia Zimmerman, C.N.  There is so much information in this book I suspect most people will at first be completely overwhelmed. Fortunately, Ms. Zimmerman has a specific list of supplements she recommends, even including brand names in some cases because supplements are not regulated and quality varies.  In addition, she has a 30-day diet that people can try.  It is a very restrictive diet and, quite frankly, a very difficult diet.  For 30 days you or your child gets a carefully balance of carbohydrates, protein and fat in order to stabilize blood sugar.  The most common allergenic foods and food additives are also eliminated, and you take the recommended supplements.  But although it may be difficult, after 30 days you will know whether or not diet is part of the problem.  The author has extensive experience working with ADDers by adjusting their diets, and she claims that most people do respond favorably.

Why are there so many nutritional deficiencies?  One reason is that modern farming practices and food processing destroys nutrients.  For example, wild game have much higher levels of essential fatty acids than farm animals do because of a diet rich in green vegetation and/or insects rather than grain.  And nutrients are lost as food sits around on the shelf.  Food processors deliberately avoid using omega-3 rich ingredients because they go rancid quickly.

In addition, people are eating substances that the human race did NOT evolve eating over the last million years.  Did our cave-dwelling ancestors feed their children fruit-rollups, store-bought cookies and muffins, candy, soda, frozen waffles and kid's cereals?  Far from it! Our ancestors ate very lean meats and fish, roots, greens, berries and nuts. Few grains, if any.  "Kid foods" are especially bad and are just full of sugar, refined wheat (which gets into their blood just as fast as table sugar), artificial hydrogenated oils, and food colors.   Don't fall for the slick marketing by the giant food corporations. Did you know that artificial food colors are made from petroleum?  Do you assume that these foods must be healthy because they are legal? If so, do you also believe that politicians are never swayed by large donations? (And if you believe THAT I've got some great real estate in Florida for real cheap...)

It's really not THAT hard to eat real food, or to get your young child to eat real food (older kids may be a lost cause).  My son has a completely different diet than his friends, and it doesn't seem to bother him one bit.   Avoid buying processed foods.  Buy meat, fish, vegetables, fruits, fructose (instead of sucrose), whole wheat flour, olive oil, canola oil, and buy real ingredients such as real vanilla rather than vanillin and real maple syrup rather than the fake stuff. Think "REAL."  Buy organic if you can afford it. And read labels!   Dole juices are 100% juice while most others are full of sugar and colors.   Freihofer's whole wheat bread contains no hydrogenated oils or artificial colors, unlike most other brands.

The nutritional supplements below are recommended by Zimmerman in "The ADD Nutrition Solution."   Zimmerman advises people to use the type or brand she recommends because she has gone through a lot of trial and error to find these, and others might not work as well.  There's a lot more detail in her book.  Do not take more than the recommended amount - essential nutrients can be toxic if you take too much.

For children:

Nutrient Product Amount Recommended for ADD Children
Omega-3 Fatty Acids Neuromins DHA 400 mg in two divided doses
Omega-3 and 6 Fatty Acids Focus (contains fish and primrose oil) or

Efalex

Focus - 8 capsules, divided in two divided doses
Omega-6 Fatty Acids Evening Primrose Oil - 500 mg capsules containing 45 mg GLA 3 capsules a day, with meals
Vitamin C and Cofactors Vitamin C AND grapeseed extract (Masquelier's or Berkem's Authentic Gold) or Pycnogenol 1. Vitamin C 500 mg
2. grape seed extract 50 mg OR
Pycnogenol 1 mg per pound of body weight, taken twice per day
B Vitamins Look for a capsule with these ratios:

B1 (thiamine): 25 mg
B2 (riboflavin): 30 mg
B3 (nicinamide): 50 mg
B6 (pyridoxine): 50 mg
B5 (pantothenic acid): 25 to 75 mg
B12 (cobalamin): 50 mcg
Folic acid: 200 mcg
Biotin: 50 to 75 mcg

One capsule daily with breakfast
Antioxidants Antioxidant formulas with vitamins A, C, E, and beta carotene, may be in a good quality mutivitamin RDA
Minerals Albion chelates of calcium, magnesium, copper, iron, zinc, selenium, chromium, and potassium.  You may want to have a hair analysis done first to determine if there are any deficiencies, especially for copper, since most people have copper drinking water pipes. Before supplementing, check your other supplements: they might contain selenium, copper, zinc, etc.  Be sure not to double up on your dosage - too much is toxic! Calcium amino acid chelate: 250 m per day

magnesium amino acid chelate 250 mg per day

zinc amino acid chelate 5 mg per day

iron amino acid chelate 10 mg per day

potassium amino acid chelate 99 mg twice per day

copper amino acid chelates: do not supplement w/o hair analysis

manganese amino acid chelate: 5 mg per day

chromium amino acid chelate: 100 mcg per day

 

For adults:

Nutrient Product Amount Recommended for ADD Adults
Omega-3 Fatty Acids Neuromins DHA 800 mg in two divided doses
Omega-3 and 6 Fatty Acids Focus (contains fish and primrose oil) or

Efalex

Focus: 8 capsules, divided in two divided doses
Omega-6 Fatty Acids Evening Primrose Oil - 500 mg capsules containing 45 mg GLA 6 capsules a day, with meals
Vitamin C and Cofactors Vitamin C AND grapeseed extract (Masquelier's or Berkem's Authentic Gold) or Pycnogenol 1. Vitamin C 750 mg twice per day
2. grape seed extract 75 mg twice per day OR
Pycnogenol 1 mg per pound of body weight, taken twice per day
B Vitamins Look for a capsule with these ratios:

B1 (thiamine): 25 mg
B2 (riboflavin): 30 mg
B3 (nicinamide): 50 mg
B6 (pyridoxine): 50 mg
B5 (pantothenic acid): 25 to 75 mg
B12 (cobalamin): 50 mcg
Folic acid: 200 mcg
Biotin: 50 to 75 mcg

Two to three capsules daily - eat with breakfast and dinner.
Antioxidants Antioxidant formulas with vitamins A, C, E, and beta carotene, may be in a good quality mutivitamin RDA
Minerals Albion chelates of calcium, magnesium, copper, iron, zinc, selenium, chromium, and potassium.  You may want to have a hair analysis done first to determine if there are any deficiencies, especially for copper, since most people have copper drinking water pipes. Before supplementing, check your other supplements: they might contain selenium, copper, zinc, etc.  Be sure not to double up on your dosage - too much is toxic! Calcium amino acid chelate: 500 m per day

magnesium amino acid chelate 500 mg per day

zinc amino acid chelate 10 mg per day

iron amino acid chelate 15 mg per day

potassium amino acid chelate two capsules containing 99 mg twice per day (four total). 

copper amino acid chelates: do not supplement w/o hair analysis

manganese amino acid chelate: 15 mg per day

chromium amino acid chelate: 200 mcg per day

selenium 200 mcg per day

Vegetarian diets are NOT recommended for people with ADHD. Vegetarians have significantly lower levels of essential fatty acids in their blood.  They also eat a higher percentage of carbohydrates and a lower percentage of protein than is recommended to stabilized blood sugar.  While I applaud the goal of vegetarians and I was once almost a vegetarian myself, the reality is that the human race evolved eating meat to nourish its oversized brains.   There are also theories about ADDers and people of Type O blood having a metabolic system closer to that of our past hunter/gatherer ancestors and having a greater need for protein in their diet.   Many of the foods eaten by vegetarians, even whole wheat and beans, are broken down into sugars fairly rapidly.

Books I recommend on nutrition:

Your Miracle Brain by Jean Carpenter, March 2000. This book is getting lots of publicity. I found it very easy to read and highly informative.  It is especially valuable to adults because there is a lot of information on how aging effects the brain and how to prevent mental decline throughout the years. The author discusses recent studies pertaining to nutrition and the brain, including vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and fatty acids.   There is also a discussion of some herbal remedies like Gingko Biloba. Some reviews by important sounding people:

Norman Rosenthal, M.D., Research Scientist, National Institute of Mental Health "Your Miracle Brain is a dazzling achievement. It turns complex, scientific research into exciting and fascinating reading that will give hope and comfort to millions of people."

Denham Harman, M.D., Emeritus Professor of Medicine, University Of Nebraska Medical Center "A beautifully written, authoritative, informative book of extraordinary interest to everybody. Sure to be a bestseller and deserves to be."

The ADD Nutrition Solution : A Drug-Free Thirty-Day Plan by Marcia Zimmerman. "Attention deficit disorder is a nutritional deficiency, not a psychological condition. This is the revolutionary discovery Marcia Zimmerman made during her ten years of research as a nutritional biochemist. That conclusion led her to develop a diet that addresses the specific needs of the 17 million adults and children suffering from ADD."  I only wish this book came with a dietary workbook so that the 30 day diet was easier to follow!  This book is loaded with information and there is a long list of studies referenced in the back.

Smart Fats: How Dietary Fats and Oils Affect Mental, Physical and Emotional Intelligence" by Michael A. Schmidt.  There is so much valuable information in this book I found myself wanting to reprint every chapter on the web for my readers.  Clearly written, fascinating, and it's not a "pop" book.  After reading this book I will never eat another donut (full of transfats) as long as I live.

The Zone, by Barry Sears, Ph.D. , and the official Zone website.   "The Zone" refers to a 40-30-30 balance (carbohydrates-protein-fat) in which the intake of oils is carefully monitored, mostly by using lots of olive & fish oil and avoiding other types of fats.  This has become a national phenomenon, especially with athletes and with people trying to lose weight.  There are cookbooks and food for sale that incorporates this principle.  This book also discusses some of the other issues such as fatty acids.  The focus of the book has more to do with preventing heart disease, but mental health is also a topic.

The Omega Plan, by Artemis P. Simopoulos, M.D. and Jo Robinson, 1998, contains lots of information about Omega-3 fatty acids and their relationship to various diseases and conditions like cancer and heart disease, as well as recipes and fatty acid information for some common foods.  I was glad I bought this book: The authors explained clearly many things which I had run across but didn't quite understand.

 


1. The Feingold Association lists studies which have found correlations between diet and things like hyperactivity, night awakenings, and eczema.   See also A Parent's Guide to Diet, ADHD and Behavior" by the Center for Science in the Public Interest.

2. "Food Additives" by Ed Blonz, Ph.D. 1997.  One of those little pocket books for $3.99 - I refer to mine pretty frequently.

3. "FDA Urged to Improve Labeling of or Ban Carmine Food Coloring: Insect-derived Coloring Causes Severe Allergic Reactions" by Center for Science in the Public Interest

4. The ADD Nutrition Solution by Marcia Zimmerman, C.N., 1999.

5. The Miracle Brain by Jean Carper, 2000.

Resources and references on fats and carbohydrates is found on my other pages on those subjects.

 

 

 

 

All BTE pages were written by Teresa Gallagher unless otherwise noted and may be photocopied (but not reprinted) without permission.  BTE Web Design now creates websites for small businesses. Perhap "BTE" really means "Born to Entrepreneur..."