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Is your child on a brain-building diet?

November 7, 2008 12:00:00 AM PST
Children who are impulsive, inattentive and high-strung are often labeled as ADD, but attention deficit disorder may not always be the cause. One pediatrician says many of the kids he sees with behavioral issues actually suffer from something else. We call them fruits and veggies. Denise Webster calls them brainy foods.

The more brainy foods she feeds her 10-year-old son James, the less ADD medication he needs.

"There was better clarity. It was almost like lifting a fog off the child," said mom, Denise Webster.

Renowned pediatrician Dr. Bill Sears isn't surprised. He's authored over 30 parenting books and says many kids labeled ADD actually have NDD-- Nutritional Deficit disorder.

"Most children with ADD can either lessen their medicines or go off medicine simply by changing their diet," said Dr. Sears.

He says avoid the terrible threes -- high fructose corn syrup, hydrogenated oils and anything with a number symbol.

One study found sugar upped kids' adrenaline levels by 10-fold up to five hours after eating it.

Keeping blood sugar in check is a must. One study found about 75-percent of hyperactive kids had abnormal blood glucose tests. Fiber-filled carbs like veggies, fruits and whole grains provide a steady supply of fuel.

"Graze. Dr. Bill's rule of twos: eat twice as often, half as much, and chew twice as long," said Dr. Sears.

The brain is 60-percent fat and it needs good fats to grow. Salmon is rich in Omega-3.

Dr. Sears also suggests feeding anti-oxidant rich blueberries. Other "brainy" foods include nuts, spinach, whole wheat toast and yogurt. James is bringing home the results.

"I have two honor rolls, which is four A's and two B's," said James Webster.

He still takes ADD medication, but at much lower doses -- a healthy side effect of a brainy diet.

Dr. Sears says in his experience, he's kids put on a brain-building diets see improvement in behavior and academic skills within a few weeks. He also says a high-protein breakfast has been proven to help kids perform better in school.

Web Extra Information:

ADD OR NDD?

BACKGROUND:

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and attention deficit disorder (ADD) are conditions that become apparent in some children in the preschool and early school years. It is difficult for these children to control their behavior and/or pay attention. Estimates show between 3 percent and 5 percent of children have ADHD. That's about 2 million children in the United States. To put it in perspective, it's likely that at least one child will have ADHD in a classroom of 25 to 30 children.

COULD FOOD BE THE CAUSE?

Renowned pediatrician Bill Sears, M.D., of San Clemente, Calif., says about half of the kids he sees that are labeled with ADD actually have NDD, or Nutritional Deficit disorder. "Most children with ADD can either lessen their medicines or go off medicine simply by changing their diet," said Dr. Sears. "The brain, more than any other organ, is affected for better or worse by what we eat. If a child is a junk food addict, his brain is the first thing that will be affected."

GOOD FATS:

According to Dr. Sears, children diagnosed with ADD should consume more good fats. More than 10,000 medical studies show the health benefits of Omega-3 fats. A recent study, published in Pediatrics in 2005, revealed school-age children given Omega-3 supplements showed improved reading and spelling scores. After the study was published, many teachers suggested school-age children should routinely be given Omega-3 supplements. These kinds of fats are found in especially high amounts in seafood like salmon. Researchers believe the high levels of Omega-3 fats in breast milk may help explain the differences in IQ between children who received human milk in infancy and those who did not.

OTHER "BRAINY" TIPS:

Dr. Sears also suggests feeding children blue foods like blueberries. Their deep blue skin is full of antioxidants that keep growing brains healthy. Other "smart" foods include nuts, spinach, whole wheat toast and yogurt. Dr. Sears says dozens of studies have proven that children who eat a high protein breakfast perform better in school. He also recommends grazing because it helps to steady blood sugar levels. "I call it the rule of twos: Eat twice as often, half as much, and chew twice as long," Dr. Sears said. Exercise also improves the blood flow to the brain. Dr. Sears says parents should consider "movement" as another brain food. Keeping a food/mood diary can also be helpful. Parents should record everything their children eat and keep track of their corresponding moods.

WHAT TO AVOID:

Dr. Sears says parents should discourage their children from eating foods with MSG, aspartame and preservatives on the label. He also says stay clear of foods containing hydrogenated oils and high fructose corn syrup.

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Information from the Corn Refiners Association:

This report suggests that high fructose corn syrup is a unique contributor to attention deficit disorder. Please take the following science-based information into consideration.

HFCS, sugar, honey and several fruit juices all contain the same simple sugars.

The American Medical Association (AMA) recently concluded that "high fructose corn syrup does not appear to contribute to obesity more than other caloric sweeteners." (American Medical Association. June 17, 2008. Press Release: AMA finds high fructose syrup unlikely to be more harmful to health than other caloric sweeteners.)

An expert review of the research literature on the dietary role of HFCS has found insufficient support for the notion that HFCS could play a unique causal role in obesity. The expert panel led by Richard Forshee, Ph.D. of the University of Maryland Center for Food, Nutrition, and Agriculture Policy (CFNAP) concluded that "the currently available evidence is insufficient to implicate HFCS per se as a causal factor in the overweight and obesity problem in the United States." (Forshee RA, Storey ML, Allison DB, Glinsmann WH, Hein GL, Lineback DR, Miller SA, Nicklas TA, Weaver GA, White JS. 2007. A Critical Examination of the Evidence Relating High Fructose Corn Syrup and Weight Gain. Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition. 47(6):561?582.)

A considerable body of published scientific research finds high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) both safe and no different from other common sweeteners like sugar and honey. Recent scientific studies have shown that the human body appears to metabolize HFCS and sugar in much the same way. Like sugar, honey and some fruit juices, HFCS contains almost equal portions of fructose and glucose. Both sugar and HFCS contain 4 calories per gram.

Kathleen J. Melanson, et al. at the University of Rhode Island reviewed the effects of HFCS and sucrose on circulating levels of glucose, leptin, insulin and ghrelin in a study group of lean women. The study found "no differences in the metabolic effects" of HFCS and sucrose. (Melanson KJ, Zukley L, Lowndes J, Nguyen V, Angelopoulos TJ, Rippe JM. 2007. Effects of high-fructose corn syrup and sucrose consumption on circulating glucose, insulin, leptin, and ghrelin and on appetite in normal-weight women. Nutrition 23(2):103-12.)

Joshua Lowndes, et al. reported on the effects of HFCS and sucrose on circulating levels of uric acid. Uric acid is believed to play a role in the development of the metabolic syndrome. This short-term study found "no differences in the metabolic effects in lean women [of HFCS] compared to sucrose," and also called for further similar studies of obese individuals and males. (Lowndes J, et al. June 2007. The Effect of High-Fructose Corn Syrup on Uric Acid Levels in Normal Weight Women. Presented at the June 2007 meeting of The Endocrine Society. Program Abstract #P2-45.)

Linda M. Zukley, et al. at the Rippe Lifestyle Institute reviewed the effects of HFCS and sucrose on triglycerides in a study group of lean women. This short-term study found "no differences in the metabolic effects in lean women [of HFCS] compared to sucrose," and called for further similar studies of obese individuals or individuals at risk for the metabolic syndrome. (Zukley M, et al. June 2007. The Effect of High Fructose Corn Syrup on Post-Prandial Lipemia in Normal Weight Females. Presented at the June 2007 meeting of The Endocrine Society. Program Abstract #P2-46.)

HFCS has a strong history as a safe ingredient recognized by food manufacturers and the U.S. government. In 1983, the Food and Drug Administration listed HFCS as "Generally Recognized as Safe" (known as GRAS status) for use in food, and reaffirmed that ruling in 1996. (61 Fed. Reg. 43447 (August 23, 1996), 21 C.F.R. 184.1866. Direct food substances affirmed as Generally Recognized as Safe; High Fructose Corn Syrup - Final Rule.)

USDA data show that per capita consumption of HFCS has been declining in recent years, yet the incidence of obesity and diabetes in the United States remains on the rise.

Additional resources:

Sweet Surprise - Information about sweeteners

HFCSfacts.com - Information about high fructose corn syrup


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