Can tweaking a child's diet help attention deficit disorders?

- The CDC says 11 percent of American children between the ages of 4 and 17 have Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, or ADHD.

But does the way children are eating play a role?

So far, studies have failed to find a link between specific ingredients in food and disorders like ADHD and ADD.

But Dr. Taz Bhatia of CentrePoint M.D., who goes professionally by "Dr. Taz"  believes diet does play a role.

"If you look at our classic kid's diet, it's full of sugar," Dr. Taz says.  "It's full of preservatives, and it's full of gluten."

So, Dr. Taz recommends cutting back on sugar, first.

"And the guideline for sugar, just to remind everybody, is now down to about 25 grams a day." she says.  "That's 3 or 4 teaspoons. And. your kids can burn through that just with the sort of sweet breakfast are having currently."

Scientists still don't know how, or even if , high sugar foods exacerbate ADHD or ADD.  

But, refined sugars do enter the bloodstream quickly, and can cause blood sugar (and energy levels) to rapidly spike, then crash.  

"Beyond sugar, I would probably go to all the artificial preservatives, dyes that affect concentration," Dr. Taz says. "So looking at the blues and the reds and some of these added ingredients that our children, honestly, can't tolerate. Some of them can, but the majority cannot."

The scientific jury in the US is still out on synthetic dyes in food, like the kind you find in fruit drinks or flavored kids' cereals. 

But, for years, the European Union has requires warning labels on food containing articifial dyes saying they can have an adverse effect on activity and attention.

And, Dr. Taz believes gluten can be problematic, for some children, too.

"It's not everyone's story, but for a portion of the ADHD population, our children that are out there, gluten is dramatic in how it affects energy and attention and focus and concentration," she says.

So, what should children be eating?

A well-balanced diet is a good start., for all children.

Dr. Taz recommends lots of brightly-colored vegetables and fruit, protein, whole grains and healthy fats.

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