The dietary patterns of the Mediterranean Diet may be related to a minor diagnosis of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), according to a study published in the journal Pediatrics directed by María Izquierdo Pulido, professor at the Faculty of Pharmacy and Sciences of the Food of the University of Barcelona; and José Ángel Alda, section head in the Psychiatry Service of the Sant Joan de Déu University Hospital in Barcelona.

 The study, which is the first scientific work that addresses the relationship between the Mediterranean Diet and ADHD in children and adolescents, suggests that some inadequate eating habits could play a role in the development of this psychiatric disorder.

 As reported by the University of Barcelona, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder is a picture of neurobiological origin that affects about 3.4% of children and adolescents around the world. It is one of the most common psychiatric disorders in early childhood and adolescence, and its consequences can be extended to adulthood. The main symptoms are hyperactivity, impulsivity and attention deficit, which manifest more intensely than in children of the same age without this disorder. Currently, the most effective intervention for those affected by ADHD combines psychological treatment, pharmacological and psychopedagogical intervention.

 The mechanisms that link a low-quality diet and ADHD are still unknown. Previous scientific studies have linked some dietary patterns (consumption of processed foods, low consumption of fruits and vegetables) with the diagnosis of ADHD. On the other hand, it is known that an unbalanced eating pattern can lead to deficiencies in essential nutrients (iron, zinc, magnesium, omega-3 fatty acids, etc.) for cognitive and physical development, and that they also seem to play an essential role in the etiology of ADHD.

 The study was prepared on a total sample of 120 children and adolescents (60 of them affected by ADHD and 60 as control group). As pointed out by María Izquierdo Pulido, member of the CIBER of Physiopathology of Obesity and Nutrition (CIBERobn) of the Carlos III Health Institute, “this new research does not establish a cause-effect relationship between eating patterns and ADHD, but may contribute to specify specific dietary strategies that improve the quality of life of both those affected and their families”.

 The relationship between an unhealthy diet and ADHD could also be a sign of inverse causality. “We do not know if these children have ADHD due to inadequate nutrition (José Ángel Alda, a psychiatrist at the Sant Joan de Déu University Hospital) or if it is the disorder that leads them to eat an excess of fats and sugars to balance their traits. impulsivity or emotional anguish. We believe that it is a vicious circle: that is to say, that the impulsiveness of children with ADHD leads them to feed themselves in an inadequate way; for this reason they do not eat the nutrients they need and that makes the symptoms worse”.

 The University of Barcelona has stressed that the Mediterranean Diet, rich in fruits, vegetables and healthy fats, provides the majority of nutrients needed in correct proportions. The new study does not establish that the Mediterranean Diet can be a protective factor against ADHD, but points to the need to maintain healthy diets during childhood and adolescence, when the body has the highest nutritional requirements to achieve growth and optimal development, as well as a healthy life during adulthood.