Natural solution: Changing a child's diet could calm ADHD, says new research.
According to a new study by Dutch scientists, restricting the range of foods fed to children suffering from ADHD can "significantly improve" their disrupting behavior and can prove a standard treatment for such kids.

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a neurobehavioral developmental disorder in children characterized by the co-existence of attentional problems and hyperactivity with symptoms starting before seven years of age.

Kids with ADHD are excessively restless, impulsive, inattentive and difficult to handle. Such children often require special care at school and in home.

"Dietary intervention should be considered in all children with ADHD, provided parents are willing to follow a diagnostic restricted elimination diet for a five-week period, and provided expert supervision is available," according to study published in The Lancet medical journal.

Previous studies have suggested that in some cases, ADHD may be an allergic or hypersensitive disorder that gets triggered due to use of artificial colors in food.

U.K .government bans use of artificial colors

Earlier, a study published in the same journal in 2007 had linked children's ingestion to many commonly used artificial food colors, including the preservative sodium benzoate, with hyperactivity.

Following the study, the British Government had asked Foods Standard Agency, the food regulatory agency in the UK, to voluntarily phase out the use of most artificial food colors by the end of 2009.

However, in the United States, little was done to check food manufacturer's use of artificial food colors despite the study's evidence.

Study particulars

In order to assess the effect of restricted diet on the behavior of children suffering from the condition, lead researcher Professor Jan Buitelaar of Radboud University, Netherlands, conducted a study on 100 children diagnosed with the disorder.

All the children in the study were aged between four to eight years.

The kids were divided into two groups. While the first group was fed a restricted diet consisting of rice, water, turkey, and some fruits and vegetables that are generally considered as unlikely to cause allergies, the second group was given normal healthy diet for five weeks.

Allergic foods like wheat, tomatoes, oranges, eggs, and dairy products were kept out of the restricted diet.

After five weeks, children who reported better behavior went to second phase of the trial where a variety of foods were gradually added in their diet. The foods were different for each child, based on their results.

In the first phase, 64 percent of children in the first group showed significant improvement in their ADHD symptoms, Buitelaar said. There was a sharp decrease in "oppositional defiant disorder symptoms" such as challenging behavior.

Dietary intervention can help ADHD children

Experts around the world have backed the study findings saying the research is an "excellent evidence" that diet change can control hyperactive behavior in ADHD children.

David Daley, professor of psychological intervention and behavior change at Britain's Nottingham University, said,
"We need to know more about how expensive the intervention is, how motivated parents need to be to make it work, and how easy it is for parents to get their ADHD child to stick to the diet."
"Many parents are reluctant to use a drug treatment and it is important that alternatives such as the few foods approach can be shown to be effective."

Buitelaar said,
"We think dietary intervention should be considered in all children with ADHD."
But the diets should be tried only with medical supervision and for no longer than five weeks at a time, he added.