EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

February 17, 2013

Making connections between ADD, diet requires one-on-one work with child

Family Matters
Dr. Larry Larsen

---- — Dear Doctor,

We have a friend who has a remedy for everything. She has diagnosed our oldest son as ADD and says we should try taking sugar out of his diet. We have done that, or have tried, and we don’t see any difference. Is there some diet that makes sense?


Dear Mom,

I am not aware of any. Bear in mind I am a clinical psychologist, neither a physician nor a nutritionist. Your friend sounds like a piece of work!

A few years ago I read an article, a “meta-analysis” (fancy word for summary and review) of research on sugar as a cause of so-called ADD. The article basically said there is no clear evidence associating ADD with sugar intake.

From a psychological standpoint, I have always wondered if lack of boundaries and control might not be the culprit. It has never made sense to me that parents cannot control the amount and type of sugar consumed by their children.

There are endless numbers of diets and regimens which are blamed for behaviors in children.

When asked by parents, I propose the “common sense” diet. Consider your child a research sample of “1.” With this N of 1, decide to eliminate a food group. Grains, dairy products, and various food additives all have been, at one time or another implicated as “causes” for ADD.

Observe what changes you see. According to existing research you are likely to see little or none. However, variance is the soul of science, and your child may be the N of 1.

By the way, you might want to consult your pediatrician before embarking on this project. Chances are he or she will say go ahead, but your son might be in special need of a particular food group.

My own view is clear: I just wish it were that easy!