Can Fruits and Veggies Reduce Inattentiveness in ADHD?

Eating the recommended daily allowance of fruits and vegetables is a struggle for most adults, let alone picky kids. But a new study published in the journal Nutritional Neuroscience suggests that a diet high in fruits and vegetables may reduce symptoms of inattention in children with ADHD.

Although the study was small—the research included data for only 134 children between 6 and 12 years old with ADHD and emotional dysregulation—the results were significant.

The Research

Using data from the 8-week randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled Micronutrients for ADHD in Youth (MADDY) Study, the researchers assessed the diet of the participants with the Healthy Eating Index-2015 (HEI-2015). The HEI-2015 scores diet quality on a 1-100 scale, with a score of 100 being the healthiest diet.

While the U.S. mean HEI-2015 score is 53.9, the children in the study had a mean score of 63.4. (It’s worth noting that, in addition to the small size of the study, another limitation was having parents or caregivers fill out the dietary questionnaires for the children.)

No association was found between the participants’ dietary scores and severity of symptoms, but researchers did find that higher intakes of fruits and vegetables were linked to lower levels of inattention.

A Word of Caution

Of course, correlation doesn’t necessarily translate to causation, and parents and caregivers shouldn’t assume that suddenly loading their kids up on fruits and vegetables will make ADHD a thing of the past. As Golisano Children’s Hospital Associate Professor of Pediatrics and Pediatrician Dr. Stephen Cook explains, “I still want all my patients to get enough fruits and vegetables, actually the whole family, so the parents can role model these behaviors. … [But the results of this study] could mislead a family and result in them not getting the actual effective care their child needs for this condition.”

The moral of the story? Explore all possible courses of care related to your child’s ADHD, but ensure they’re getting the recommended daily serving of fruits and vegetables to keep them healthy and focused.


Wendy Burt-Thomas writes about the brain, mental health and parenting.

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