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Low-carb/Gluten-free helps with ADHD in study

The ADHD Research Centre in Eindhoven, the Netherlands has some interesting things to say about the treatment of children with ADHD:

Diet can do it.

Medscape, a website affiliated with WebMD, reports on a study by the Centre where groups of children with ADHD symptoms and behaviors were tested on their reaction to an elimination diet.

The study included 100 children with ADHD, all of whom were checked for allergic reactions to foods before the study began.  Half were placed into a control group, half into a test group where their diet was limited to "mainly rice, meat vegetables, pears, and water, complemented with potatoes, fruits, and wheat."  And all the children were monitored by their parents for behavior changes.

Now here's the interesting part:  after 2 weeks, 41 of the children in the test group were showing no changes, so the diet was limited even more to rice, meat, vegetables, pears, and water.  Notice what was left out:  gluten and fructose via the wheat and fruits, as well as excess carbs from the potatoes.

So this diet was pretty darned close to a Paleo diet - with only rice and pears as non-Paleo foods.  And here's the result:
According to the investigators, by the end of phase 1 (weeks 4-9), symptoms of ADHD and oppositional defiant disorder were significantly improved in 64% of children in the diet group compared with no improvement in controls.
So there was a marked improvement based on diet.  And another really interesting thing happened in phase two of the study.  In this phase, the respondents from the first phase (those in the 64% in the above quote) were re-introduced to a "standard" diet.  And the result:
After challenges with either high- or low-IgG* foods, relapse of ADHD symptoms occurred in 19 of 30 children (63%), regardless of IgG blood test results.
So going back to those foods resulted in the children going right back to displaying their ADHD behavior.

What does this tell us?  It seems to say that diet is a factor in ADHD, and that a gluten-free, low-carb diet can be a significant treatment for such individuals.

And what might that tell us about the use of diet to help make our brain power more effective?  That a low-carb, gluten-free diet can be a factor in making our inner workings more productive and normalized.

* IgG is Immunoglobulin G, an antibody molecule whose presence would indicate an allergic response to the foods reintroduced.


  1. With all due respect, you read the study wrong. 50 of the children were put in the diet group, but only 41 started the diet. As far as I can tell, the authors of the study didn't specify how many of the children restricted the diet further after two weeks. For all we know, all 41 ate wheat through the entire five weeks.

    I'd be happy to email you a PDF of the Lancet article if you'd like.

  2. Thanks, Brian. I'd like to read that - all I had to go on was the article about the study. But it doesn't make sense to me why the study would even be noteworthy if the diet changes after two weeks didn't make a notable improvement.

    You can send the PDF to Thanks again.

  3. It's amazing that 64% of kids responded so dramatically to dietary changes, even if they didn't eliminate wheat and fruit!

    PDF on the way. It's a little dense, as is to be expected, so don't be surprised if I've misread it too! :)

  4. Can you send me the pdf too?

  5. It is an interesting study, but I feel that the other of the above comment on the study as not noted some of the more nuanced aspects of it. I think there are places on the internet where the study is available to be read.

    In addition, the conclusions drawn from the study by the author of this comment are more specific than the conclusions drawn by the authors of the paper; the research does not support the conclusions in the above comment.


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