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Feingold ADHD Diet

Abstract: The Feingold ADHD diet is difficult to adhere to and there is no proof that it helps.

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Feingold ADHD Diet

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Written by: Martin Winkler
First version: 22 Jul 2008.
Latest revision: 24 Jul 2008.

Does the Feingold ADHD diet improve symptoms of hyperactivity?


Despite the fact that most doctors and self-help organizations (including CHADD) do not recommend this approach, many parents will at least try this ADHD diet method. Many parents would like to accept a "natural" or drug-free alternative approach to treat ADHD. They accept dubious "nutritional supplements" and rigid diets with unknown risks for their children, because they are afraid of possible side-effects of standard adhd therapies. This is strongly influenced by unserious media reports!

Some parents indeed report a special sensitivity of their children to some dyes and have started to eliminate products with artificial colouring or sweeteners. They argue such an approach would be safer and cheaper than any medication with psychostimulants. But there is no scientific proof for a relation of the symptoms or negative influence caused by food supplements and adhd. ADHD is a distinct disorder with impairment of executive function and not restricted to hyperactivity or attentional dysfunction.

Here is a partial list of foods not allowed on the Feingold Diet:

almonds, apples, apricots, all types of berries, cherries, cloves, coffee, cucumbers and pickles, currants, grapes, raisins, nectarines, oranges, peaches, pepper, plums, tangerines, tea, tomatoes, aspirin and other types of medication, oil of wintergreens, mint flavouring

Current recommendations of the Feingold diet would recommend a two-stage plan: Starting with an elimination of artificial colors and flavours, antioxidants (BHA, BHT, TBHQ), aspirin-containing products, foods with natural salicylates. If some improvement is achieved a "reintroduction" of one product at a time could be tried.

Food "allowed"

Fruits : bananas, cantaloupe, dates, grapefruit, kiwis, lemons, mangoles, papayas, pears, pineapple, watermelon
Vegetables: bean sprouts, beans, beets, broccoli, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, lettuce, mushrooms, onions, peas, potatoes, spinach, sweet corn, zuccini

I think this shows that a Feingold "diet" would interfere with normal healthy child nutrition and requires a dramatic change of family lifestyle and eating patterns.

While there are single reports of some benefit of a elimination of "toxic" food additives of all kinds of elimination trials more than 10 well-controlled studies have failed to find any benefit of the Feingold Diet. Please be careful before starting this kind of self-help approach and talk to a medical doctor and parents of a self-help group before wasting time and effort with this method. Most parents do not stick to diets for adhd treatment. But of course for a very small number of children it might be o.K. to eliminate certain food if a strong association of neuropsychiatric problems and food intake has been prooven. We do not reccomend this approach since the chance of any benefit is low and possible harm for the children cannot be excluded.

Read an interesting article about Feingold quackery by Stephen Barrett.
More about ADHD.

Note : The officials of the Feingold association try to stop negative reports concerning their methods. I donĀ“t think this is a valuable efford to change the scientific opinion on Feingold diets for adhd. All adhd guidelines do not recommend diets or foodrestriction method as a first line therapy or treatment option for adhd.
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