Dietary changes and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)

Strong evidence – there is lots of high-quality evidence that some young people find this treatment option helpful.

Your ADHD professional should talk with you and your parents or carers about the importance of good nutrition. This is particularly important if you are taking a medication that is affecting your appetite.

Your professional should also ask about whether there is a link between any particular foods and your ADHD symptoms. You might be asked to keep a diary of what you have eaten and your ADHD symptoms to see if there is a link between the two. If there is, you should be offered a referral to a dietitian, who might suggest making changes to what you eat and drink.

Dietary changes which have little evidence to support them include fatty acid supplements (usually fish oil based). They can contribute to a balanced diet, but taking too much could have negative health effects.

There isn’t any evidence that food and drinks containing artificial colours or additives cause ADHD or that cutting these foods and drinks out of your diet is an effective treatment for ADHD.

You may also hear about "few foods" diets, but there is no evidence for the long-term effectiveness of these as a treatment for ADHD. However, these diets can be a risk for nutritional deficiencies.

Treatments outlined on these webpages may not be available in every local area. It’s important that you discuss with your GP or mental health professional the treatment options available to you. You can also search for services near you on our Youth Wellbeing Directory and find out more about referral processes here.

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