Unhealthy diet of moms-to-be may cause ADHD in children: Study

Inattention, impulsivity, or hyperactivity are some of the symptoms of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and are attributed to genetic traits or complex neurological differences seen in brain development. While more studies are being carried out to understand the factors behind the growing prevalence of ADHD among American children, scientists from the King’s College London and the University of Bristol have associated unhealthy dietary habits of moms-to-be with the risks of ADHD in their children.

Researchers in their study, titled “Prenatal unhealthy diet, insulin-like growth factor 2 gene (IGF2) methylation, and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder symptoms in youth with early-onset conduct problems,” indicated how a diet rich in sugar and fat can bring about transformations in the DNA of the baby, thus, causing brain changes and consequently ADHD problems.

The authors of the study, published in the Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry in July 2016, examined respondents who had participated in the Bristol-based study. The scientists compared 83 children exhibiting early symptoms of ADHD with 81 children who manifested low levels of behavioral problems.

Diet rich in sugar and fat can bring about transformations in baby’s DNA

During the research, the scientists examined how change in mothers’ nutrition brought about alterations of IGF2, a gene involved in advancement of the fetus while affecting the development of the cerebellum and hippocampus involved in ADHD.

The scientists found that high level of fat and sugar in processed foods and confectioneries were linked to higher alterations of IGF2 in both the sets of children. For children aged between seven and 13 years, an increased rate of IGF2 methylation was linked to aggravated signs of ADHD, but this was limited to children manifesting an early onset of conduct problems, such as lying or fighting.

The authors of the study wrote, “Diet can affect a range of psychiatric problems. There’s good evidence that diet can affect depression. Of course it affects obesity, but obesity is related to how we feel about ourselves and can be related to ADHD.”

Diet not sole determinant of ADHD

Though the findings of the research do not indicate a causal relationship between diet and ADHD, the scientists indicated that mothers on a bad diet showed impulsive streaks in nature and hence, found it difficult to resist options deemed unhealthy in nature.

The same may be held responsible, though not completely, for manifestation of ADHD symptoms in their children. Though diet is not the only potential factor of ADHD, its quality definitely poses a significant reason behind the onset of the disorder in some children. The quality and nature of diet can pose an unseen risk in causing psychiatric disorders like ADHD, though the former cannot be singled out as the only causative agent involved.

There is a need to conduct the study on a larger scale with more number participants being inquired about the nature of their diet during their gestation phase apart from detailed assessment of their children afflicted with the kinds of symptoms of ADHD and their severity.

Curing ADHD

The prevalence of ADHD is more than what doctors initially believed. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) highlighted that nearly 11 percent American children aged between four and 17 years are detected with ADHD as of 2011. Not much information is available about the association between ADHD and gender, but boys are three times more likely to suffer from this disorder.

If you or our loved one is battling some form of mental disorder, including ADHD, get connected to the 24/7 Mental Health Helpline to learn about the best mental health programs in the U.S. Call at our 24/7 helpline number 855-653-8178 or chat online with one of our mental health experts for more information on mental health counseling programs.