Can A “Western Diet” Give You ADHD?

Western ADHD

How many times have you heard to put the burger and french fries down? A study from Australia suggests there may be good reasoning for this, warning about the effects of a typical Western diet and the rise of ADHD in adolescents.  The good news is that eating a “healthy pattern diet,” more common in Asia and many Mediterranean countries, lessens the reported diagnosis of ADHD.

“We found a diet high in the Western pattern of foods was associated with more than double the risk of having an ADHD diagnosis compared with a diet low in the Western pattern, after adjusting for numerous other social and family influences,” says Dr. Wendy Oddy, a lead researcher for the Western ADHD study. After looking at the dietary patterns amongst the adolescents they then compared the diet information against whether or not the child had received an ADHD diagnosis by the age of 14 years. Their findings were that 115 adolescents had been diagnosed with ADHD, 91 boys and 24 girls.

A Western pattern is a diet with a trend towards convenience and fast foods, sweets, processed, fried and refined foods. These diets tend to be higher in total fat, saturated fat, refined sugar, and sodium. Whereas a “healthy” pattern is a diet high in fresh fruit and vegetables, whole grains, and fish. It tends to be higher in omega-3 fatty acids, folate, and fiber.

The specific foods that are most associated with those who received an ADHD diagnosis are processed meats, red meat, high-fat dairy products and sweets.

The findings of the study suggested that a Western dietary pattern may indicate the adolescent has a less optimal fatty acid profile, whereas a diet higher in omega-3 fatty acids is thought to hold benefits for mental health and optimal brain function.

When you incorporate more foods rich in Omega-3’s it turns out you are doing your brain a great deal of service. Not only can it help improve mood, memory loss, inflammation, and help lower your risk of chronic diseases.

In addition, she added that the Western dietary pattern does not provide enough essential micronutrients that are needed for brain function, particularly attention and concentration. Another concern is that the Western diet might contain more additives that have been linked to an increase in ADHD symptoms. There may also be a link between impulsivity, characteristic of ADHD, leading to poor food choices when hungry.

We have found that a healthy diet, along with targeted supplements with high-quality fish oil can be of tremendous help in healing the symptoms of ADD and ADHD. At Amen Clinics, we understand the pain and frustration that ADHD can cause for families and adults.  We approach each individual with a sense of compassion and respect. Our experienced clinical staff will take a full history of each patient using The 4 Circles Approach before beginning treatment with SPECT imaging or making other recommendations. Connect with us today by calling 888-288-9834 to learn more – we are waiting to help you, or schedule a visit today!


  1. Nobody has ever talked about the chemicals in lipstick–can they cause ADD, Anxiety and/or depression?

    Comment by sally Thompson — August 10, 2018 @ 6:17 AM

  2. I lived and taught in Japan, and while many Japanese children eat the traditional diet and enjoy generous amounts of daily exercise time in school, I believe that more children go in Japan may go undiagnosed for ADHD because of the social stigma associated with the diagnosis. As an educator I observed what appeared to be about the same number of children with ADHD symptoms but were not typically diagnosed with ADHD. I agree that diet is an essential component for being healthy and should not be ignored, for sure, but cultures vary greatly in how they accept and properly diagnose ADHD, too. This might possibly explain the different rates for diagnosing the disorder in other cultures that may have been overlooked in the study.

    Comment by Pat — August 10, 2018 @ 7:35 AM

  3. I am so in sync with all this information on diet. The thing people leave out is that kids have minds, and asr CONSTANTLY being tempted outside the home. My 13er literally refuses to eat anything healthy except fruit, and milk and this has been made worse by braces. He struggles with ADD, ODD and anger, but will not be compliant. He is so hard! We have veggies, nuts, rice cheese etc available, but he will hold out till he can beg for junk at school, or steal money to buy junk after school. So, the thing no one is addressing, is how to get your kids to actually EAT the things you know are best.

    Comment by deborah — August 10, 2018 @ 1:25 PM

  4. How did the analysis distinguish cause and effect? Maybe people with ADHD are more likely to go and eat fast food on an impulse, so having ADHD makes eating junk food more likely. Surely that is as logical explanation as “eating junk food causes ADHD”. I just wonder how the direction of cause and effect was dealt with in this study.


    Comment by Murray Webster — August 10, 2018 @ 6:25 PM

  5. Make spinach based pasta. Make homemade sauce, blend in carrots, onuons, garlic or anything that can be pureed. Meatballs are easy enough, but put chicken in the sauce too. Disguise the vegetables. Make dips to go with vegetables. I wore braces and ate everything except candy, crunchy chips, and celery. Make stews. I remember eating a lot of spaghetti or omelettes. Soups work too. I have TMJ problems from grinding, so getting proper nutrition can be a problem. Give a multiple vitamin. Reward good behavior too, it works. Take away things if no cooperation.

    Comment by MaryAnn Germano — August 11, 2018 @ 5:22 AM

  6. Home-school for his health! Then he can’t get to the junk food.

    Comment by Bonnie — August 11, 2018 @ 9:23 AM

  7. Everybody please, also along with Sally Thompson’s comment, remember that the public school’s get extra credit and money from the state board of education that promotes hyperactivity in children who are not hyperactive or have the new ADHD title. The system gets the child on Ritilin that is known to cause drug dependency once the child is off the drug and the parents don’t get to administer the drug to the child, only the school’s nurse. How do I know this? I know a retired teacher from the Texas public school system. He also tells me that they have designated doctors that never do a real work up on that child, so the child is never truly examined. Just put on Ritilin to get extra bucks from the state.

    Comment by Ronald Smith — August 12, 2018 @ 4:19 AM

  8. You’re kidding right? ADHD add are 100% biological. (For the most part, hereditary. Therefore if ONE parent has ADHD or ADD the child will be ADHD/ADD 75% of the time and if both parents are (not ‘have’) ADHD/ADD you will see almost 100% .

    Remember, all great human invention (and art.. Ex.. WW2? Patton, Einstein, Churchill and Eisenhaur had ADHD) came from a mind with ADHD, so while there are challenges, it isn’t some kind of ‘curse’

    This is the key: If you care about your child being a ‘worker ant’ and not an inventor and/or artist, things will be a challenge.

    The FOOD thing is because America has significantly more ADHD/ADD people and because one of the challenges is (two frontal lobes, the ‘executive functions’ which control emotional regulation and impulse control, so of COURSE they do fast food!

    So! Fast food doesn’t cause ADHD! ADHD people are more likely to eat fast food!

    ADHD is 5 regions of the brain growing 2-3 years BEHIND the Average/mean and that is why in some ways the ADHD child acts ‘immature’ because 5 regions are growing BEHIND the average. They still grow to 100% but are delayed.

    It is that simple people.

    Comment by Wayne Bienek — August 13, 2018 @ 12:10 AM

  9. There are volumes of studies demonstrating poor dietary habits and ADHD. There is no argument on this. Avoiding processed foods; eating more fruits and vegetables and a healthy dietary pattern reduces inflammation in the central nervous system and supports normal brain function. Heredity plays a role in many condition, but diet is the key factor. Eliminate the processed junk foods and seek more natural healthy food alternatives.

    We always see improvements for ADHD children, as well as most other neurological conditions, when this advice is followed. It’s challenging but not impossible – try to AVOID processed foods as much as possible. Look for natural unprocessed foods. This step alone will often produce remarkable results for children suffering from ADHD. It is important for us as parents to be aware of the harmful effect of processed food on the condition of ADHD. I have seen
    childhood hyperactivity and lack of concentration arrest itself by avoiding processed foods and eating more fruits and vegetables – healthier unprocessed foods.

    It’s the diet! It’s the diet! Yes it is! It is the diet. Avoid processed foods; look for healthy natural unprocessed food replacements. Many children will experience an improvement in ADHD symptoms with a healthier diet. It will take time and effort to reverse the trend in neurological damage from a chronically deficient processed food diet. Mom’s and Dad’s – To Start: Keep your children AWAY from processed food as much as possible – like it’s poison! (Processed food may act as a trigger due to the processing chemicals and lack of nutrients, thus promoting ADHD. A processed food diet affects the performance of all children – avoid the processed stuff! It really does help!

    Best of wishes and success for your children!
    God Bless,
    Dr. H

    Comment by That is incorrect. There are volumes of studies demonstrating poor dietary habits and and ADHD. There is no argument that nutrition is key - avoid processed foods and eat more fruits and vegetables. Heredity plays a role; diet does also. — October 25, 2019 @ 8:27 AM

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