A low-food diet alters brain activity in children with ADHD. At more than 60%, it has the same effect as the drug Ritalin, used to treat ADHD since the 1960s.

Symptoms of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) were dramatically reduced in children after following a low-food diet. Children were only allowed to eat a limited amount of safe food for five weeks.

Previous studies showed that, after following this diet, at least sixty percent of children no longer meet the criteria for ADHD.

The low-food diet is difficult to follow and cannot be applied without medical supervision. Therefore, it is important that research advances to better understand the biological relationship between nutrition and ADHD.

Children in whom the reduction in symptoms was most evident showed greater activity in a specific part of the brain. The more significant the behavior change, the more activity in that part of the brain increases.

Upon discovering this, researchers at Wageningen University showed, for the first time, a relationship between a decrease in ADHD symptoms and an increase in brain activity after a diet.

These results were published in the scientific journal Scientific Reports. “It’s an important step in nutrition and ADHD research,” he says. Saartje Hontelez from Wageningen University and Research. “We have shown that subjective observation of behavior is objectively confirmed through a brain scan.”

Activity in the precuneiform area of ​​the brain

A brain scan (fMRI) was performed on the children at the beginning and end of the study. After the first examination, the children followed the low-food diet – they were only allowed to eat a limited amount of safe food for five weeks. Then a second scan was performed.

In more than sixty percent of 53 children, parents observed a significant decrease in ADHD symptoms after the low-food diet. These children also showed a clear increase in precuneiform activity, an area that is part of the brain’s pattern-mode network and perhaps the most connected center of the cerebral cortex.

According to experts, a similar increase in brain activity is seen when ADHD symptoms disappear as a result of following a low-food diet or after taking the drug Ritalin.

“We see a similar increase in activity when ADHD symptoms disappear after following a low-food diet or after taking Ritalin.”

Previous studies have shown that children with ADHD have decreased brain activity in that area of ​​the brain and that treatment with Ritalin increases this activity. Hontelez: “Our findings are consistent with current knowledge about this area of ​​the brain. We see a similar increase in activity when ADHD symptoms disappear after following a low-food diet or after taking Ritalin.

Wageningen University and Research is also studying the role of the microbiota (the bacteria in the intestines) to further unravel how diet works for some disorders such as ADHD. It was even found a relationship with the mother’s diet during pregnancy, for example, with coffee consumption.

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