Reading the papers this morning I come across an article in the New York Times, “Is It Really A.D.H.D. or Just Immaturity?” The article describes research in Taiwan that tries to distinguish between the incidence of ADHD suffered by children who enter school having barely made the age cutoff and those that enter school having just missed it the year before. The hypothesis of the study was that kids that are a year older are less likely to be diagnosed.
I am always looking for places to confirm my own biases, and I tend to think that the Western Diet leads to whatever ails us. I read on with interest. According to the NIH (US National Institutes of Health) ADHD is:
Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a brain disorder marked by an ongoing pattern of inattention and/or hyperactivity-impulsivity that interferes with functioning or development.
The thinking by Taiwanese researchers may have been that ADHD is something that children might grow out of. When I was a child there was no such thing as ADHD. There were fidgety kids in just about every class, but none of them ever just jumped up out of their seats and ran about disrupting things. I went to elementary school for seven years and never even heard of such a thing, this was in the 1960s.
Researchers in Taiwan looked at data from 378,881 children ages 4 to 17 and found that students born in August, the cut-off month for school entry in that country, were more likely to be given diagnoses of A.D.H.D. than students born in September. The children born in September would have missed the previous year’s cut-off date for school entry, and thus had nearly a full extra year to mature before entering school. The findings were published Thursday in The Journal of Pediatrics.
The difference was ever so slight. I re-state that NOBODY that I know of had ADHD when I was a grade-schooler. It leads me to confirm one of my biases, and that is that until a pill is developed there is sometimes no need for the disease. Never mind that the pill doesn’t cure the illness. Never mind that the pill leads to serious permanent side-effects that themselves lead to other pills. The Taiwanese in the conclusion of the study call for considering that the child may not have ADHD requiring a lifetime of medications to make them ‘normal,’ but that they may in fact be normal already and acting like the ‘little kid in class.’
In my opinion the upswing in ADHD diagnosis in the US is due to a couple of related factors, one of them that I have already alluded to, that there is now a pill to prescribe for it, but that there is an upswing in diagnosis in the US that is undeniable:
About 12 percent of children and teens in the United States had an ADHD (Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder) diagnosis in 2011, a number that’s shot up by 43 percent since 2003, according to a large national study based on parental reports of an ADHD diagnosis.
Several other childhood diagnoses have had pretty much the same trajectory since then: childhood obesity, childhood onset of type 2 diabetes, childhood incidence of NASH (nonalcoholic steatohepatitis or Fatty Liver Disease–a kind of cirrhosis), autism. Makes me think that kids that can’t sit still may be high on something. What could it be, hmmm, SUGAR maybe? What are the chances that we are giving our kids high doses of mind altering drugs to compensate for our giving them high quantities of another mind altering drug, sugar?
There is sugar in your child’s breakfast cereal, chocolate milk, fruit juice, yogurt, pancakes or waffles, oatmeal–and those are just the breakfast foods. When I was young you had to ADD sugar to your cereal in the morning. Add any more than a teaspoon of sugar to your Wheaties or Cheerios and Mom would start scolding. Now these cereals come with the sugar baked right in. Cheerios Honey Nut Medley Crunch: In 3/4 cup of this cereal there is 9 grams of sugar, or two teaspoons. Serve not even a cup of Sunny Delight orange juice and there is another 3 teaspoons of sugar (6.5 ounce serving). Add some yogurt and its another 2 teaspoons of sugar in a tube of GoGurt yogurt-candy. That is a total of seven teaspoons of sugar administered to the mind of a 60 pound boy or girl. Now ask them to sit still in the school bus or their school bench until their next dose at school lunch.
The idea that diet is a causal factor for every ailment that I have attributed to sugar in this blog and even in this article is not new. Throwing ADHD onto the pile of maladies that are suspected to come from eating fructose (50% of whats in table sugar) is not even a new hypothesis:
Objective: To examine the relationship between dietary patterns and ADHD in a population-based cohort of adolescents. Method: The Raine Study is a prospective study following 2,868 live births. At the 14-year follow-up, the authors collected detailed adolescent dietary data, allowing for the determination of major dietary patterns using factor analysis. ADHD diagnoses were recorded according to International Classification of Deiseases, 9th Revision coding conventions. Logistic regression was used to assess the relationship between scores for major dietary pattern and ADHD diagnoses. Results: Data were available for 1,799 adolescents, and a total of 115 adolescents had an ADHD diagnosis. Two major dietary patterns were identified: “Western” and “Healthy.” A higher score for the Western dietary pattern was associated with ADHD diagnosis (odds ratio = 2.21, 95% confidence interval = 1.18, 4.13) after adjusting for known confounding factors from pregnancy to 14 years. ADHD diagnosis was not associated with the “Healthy” dietary pattern. Conclusion: A Western-style diet may be associated with ADHD.
What is “Western”? Sugar in every bite, all of the food eaten is dead and hyper-processed, and there are 10,000 artificial ingredients. “Healthy” may mean nothing more than home-cooked or lots of single ingredient foods. One may get into how the researchers broke down what is healthy or not. They may even single out ‘fats’ as a dietary food of concern, like lots of other researchers do, but the conclusion is definitely that eating like kids do in the morning in the US gives them a greater than two to one chance of being diagnosed with ADHD, and it is getting worse.
SOMEBODY SHOULD DO SOMETHING! You scream at your monitor. True, and it is you. In the US the government follows what the corporations are already doing. There will be limits on the amount of fructose added to children’s foods when we have all already quit eating them, so the corporations have already quit making them. The ball is in your court America. Quit feeding the kids processed foods. Make oatmeal the old fashioned way. Give the kids fruit not juice. Eat meat again, it’s health food. Ferment your own pickles, just takes three days, but only a few minutes to start. Make it yourself, make it real, or plan on giving your kids facial tics from a life on Ritalin or feeling guilty because they can’t set still and you refuse to medicate them. Medicate them to counteract the medicine that is in their breakfast cereal or feed them healthy food–bacon and eggs, home cooked oatmeal from the cardboard tube with the quaker on the label.