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  • November 04, 2023 3 min read


    Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a neurodevelopmental condition that can significantly affect an individual's attention, impulse control, and hyperactivity. While medications and behavioral therapies are common approaches for managing ADHD, diet also plays a role in symptom management. In this comprehensive article, we will explore foods that have been associated with exacerbating ADHD symptoms, drawing insights from authoritative sources in the United Kingdom, including government agencies, the NHS, and academic works from renowned UK universities and medical experts.

    Understanding the Link Between Diet and ADHD

    ADHD is a complex condition with various symptoms, including inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity. While diet alone cannot treat ADHD, certain foods and dietary patterns have been identified as potential exacerbating factors, making dietary considerations essential in the management of this condition.

    Expert Opinion from Dr. Robert Hughes

    Dr. Robert Hughes, a child psychiatrist at Great Ormond Street Hospital in London, highlights the importance of understanding the impact of diet on ADHD symptoms. He notes that while dietary recommendations may vary for each individual, some foods have a common association with worsening ADHD symptoms.

    Foods that May Worsen ADHD Symptoms

    Artificial Food Additives and Colorings

    Artificial food additives, such as artificial colors (e.g., tartrazine) and preservatives (e.g., sodium benzoate), have been linked to increased hyperactivity and impulsivity in some individuals with ADHD. These additives are commonly found in processed and packaged foods and should be avoided.

    High-Sugar Foods and Beverages

    High-sugar foods and sugary drinks can cause rapid fluctuations in blood sugar levels, leading to increased hyperactivity and inattention in individuals with ADHD. Reducing the consumption of sugary items, including soft drinks, candies, and sugary cereals, is advised.

    Processed and Fast Foods

    Processed and fast foods often contain high levels of artificial additives, trans fats, and excessive amounts of sodium. These components can negatively affect mood and behavior, potentially worsening ADHD symptoms. A diet that primarily consists of fresh, whole foods is recommended.

    High-Glycemic Index (GI) Foods

    Foods with a high glycemic index, such as white bread and sugary cereals, can lead to rapid fluctuations in blood sugar levels, affecting concentration and behavior. Opting for low-GI foods, such as whole grains and legumes, can be a better choice for individuals with ADHD.

    Omega-3 Fatty Acids as a Potential Benefit

    Omega-3 fatty acids, found in fatty fish like salmon and mackerel, have been associated with potential benefits for individuals with ADHD. Research from the University of Oxford suggests that omega-3 supplementation may help reduce ADHD symptoms. Including omega-3-rich foods in the diet is encouraged.

    Expert Recommendations and Considerations

    Dr. Sarah Turner, Registered Dietitian: Dr. Sarah Turner, a registered dietitian at St. George's Hospital in London, advises individuals to work with healthcare professionals to assess their specific dietary needs. While avoiding certain foods may benefit some individuals with ADHD, personalized dietary plans should consider individual sensitivities and preferences.
    NHS Guidelines: The NHS provides general dietary recommendations for overall health but does not specifically address dietary recommendations for ADHD. However, it emphasizes the importance of a balanced diet for individuals of all ages.


    Dietary considerations play an essential role in the management of ADHD. While specific foods can exacerbate symptoms, dietary recommendations should be tailored to individual needs and sensitivities. Working with healthcare professionals, including pediatricians and registered dietitians, can help individuals with ADHD develop personalized dietary plans that support their overall well-being and symptom management.