ADHD: diet and supplements

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Many parents hope their child will be able to stop taking his medicine if he eats the right food. Some believe attention deficit disorders are not related to the brain at all but linked to enzymes and the metabolism of omega-3 and -6 fatty acids.

Professor CF van der Merwe of the department of gastroenterology at Medunsa believes omega-3 and -6 supplements to be the solution for all children with ADD and ADHD as they helped his own child. New studies reveal these supplements could offer successful treatment for up to 40 per cent of children with ADD or ADHD.

You can give your child the right supplements and fish rich in omega- 3 fatty acids such as anchovies, sardines, mackerel, tuna, trout and salmon, as long as it doesn't come from a tin laden with preservatives. It may take four to six months before a difference is seen.

Studies also show that the elimination of foods containing tartrazine and other preservatives may help 20 to 30 per cent of children. This may yet prove to be a placebo effect and nobody is sure how long the effects last. Reduce preservatives by avoiding or limiting concentrated and fizzy cooldrinks, dessert (jelly in particular), smoked fish and canned vegetables, store-bought biscuits and confectionery, fish fingers, store-bought hamburger patties, margarine, tea and coffee, all food fried in oil, chocolates, sweets, chips, white bread, processed meat and polony.

Also limit your child's intake of sugar and sweets. Rather give him fresh meat, fish and chicken; fresh fruit (especially pears and pawpaw) and vegetables; unrefined carbohydrates such as wholewheat bread; and milk and other dairy products.

Don't be disappointed if this is a short-term solution only. "If this was the solution for all children with ADD or ADHD it would hardly be necessary to prescribe medicine," Dr Adri van der Walt explains.

This article was compiled with the assistance of Professor André Venter, Dr Adri van der Walt and many scientific papers. It is an edited version of an article that originally appeared in Pulse magazine in September 2007. Buy the latest copy, on newsstand now, for more fascinating stories in the world of health and wellness.

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