View Full Version : High fat diets and ADHD symptoms

02-26-14, 05:10 PM
Diets that are high in fat are possibly linked to childhood brain-based conditions, such as memory-dependent learning disabilities and attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), researchers from the University of Illinois College of Medicine reported in Psychoneuroendocrinology.

Senior author, Gregory Freund, said:
"We found that a high-fat diet rapidly affected dopamine metabolism in the brains of juvenile mice, triggering anxious behaviors and learning deficiencies. Interestingly, when methylphenidate (Ritalin) was administered, the learning and memory problems went away."


02-26-14, 05:13 PM
So, could we possibly infer something from this study concerning Paleo and ketogenic diets in relation with ADHD?

02-27-14, 02:41 AM
^ maybe :)

I could focus well on a high starch, very low fat diet. The problem was weight.

02-27-14, 09:16 AM
Interesting. I wonder if high protein low carb diets are similar, or if it's just the fat.

I could never get far into any of the low carb diets. I know that they all require a strict induction period, but I could never get past that. My mood really suffered without the carbs. The most frustrating thing for me was not being able to eat most fruits and veggies. It seems so unnatural.

I know there is a certain logic to the whole food as addiction, therefore my cravings are "just" withdrawal theory, but as someone familiar with basic psychology, I have to say that I think that it has much more to do with the fact that you're depriving yourself of something, which clearly makes you A) think about the food you can't eat, which B) makes you crave it more. (Seriously, google pink elephant. The best way to keep someone looping around the same thought is to forbid them from thinking it).

The other thing that gives me pause about the low carb diets is how strict you have to be, all the time. It's hard enough not to screw up, but if every time you do you mess up your metabolic state, feel like crap, AND get back on the wagon? That strikes me as a setup for failure for the majority of folks trying to lose weight. There's a real tendency to say screw it after messing up, and just go back to baseline, as the lead up is so onerous.

02-27-14, 09:44 AM
This week alone, I've read studies that ADHD is linked to older men having babies and expecting mothers taking paracetamol. I've also heard that it's linked to genetics, pollution, certain chemicals in food, hormones, weight at birth and a million other things.

In my case, I know for sure that it's not linked to high-fat diet, since I've never eaten a lot of fat.

02-27-14, 09:59 AM
Corina, I think that ADHD and learning disabilities are primarily genetic. The older sperm theory actually kind if confirms that, in that the genetic mistakes are amplified with wear (forgive the metaphor).

I do think that certain evironmental factors can exacerbate underlying conditions. Anything from bullying to poor diet can and does affect everyone's ability to function. When your ability to function is already suboptimal because of faulty wiring, the other factors are more likely to have an appreciable effect.

The fact that a high fat diet influences dopamine metabolism and release is interesting because there are signs of altered metabolism in people who are obese (Nora Volkow has done imaging studies both having to do with addiction and obesity. The findings are similar).

Of course, this preliminary finding doesn't say anything about causation of ADHD in humans, but it does raise the possibility that a high fat diet may not be doing us any long term favors.

I do admit that it is a bit dangerous to say what I did above, as words can be twisted to blame others for their dietary choices. Living is a complex dance. No one factor alone is going to solve this complex puzzle.

02-27-14, 10:02 AM
Interestingly, my psych issues got really bad about 9 months after I did Atkins back in the day.

I lost maybe 65 lbs in 2 months, I used the so called 2 week "Induction" phase rules for the entire period.

02-27-14, 11:06 AM
It could definitely be a contributing factor in my life. We ate all packaged, processed, quick-prepare meals when I was growing up, except for the weekends. As I got older, trying out any type of "diet" that's heavily marketed has given me nothing but grief and increased health complications, so I kept choosing the only diet I knew and grew up with.

Finally, after years of trying what the latest commercials, other friends, people who I've chalked up as being much more intelligent about these things than I, who all said these diets would work "miracles".........I've learned they were ALL full of s***. Eating a good balance of healthy, mainly organic and local, non-processed foods has been my best experience.

Some of the reason for the success, I believe, is being able to slowly transition into it so your body can adjust, easily following it as a lifestyle change, and benefiting the most from it in my overall health, not just specific to adhd, depression, weight loss, etc. It hasn't been easy by any stretch of the imagination, but it's definitely been the most effective and easiest to follow.

02-27-14, 12:43 PM
One of the things that bother me in these studies is that they assume everyone with ADHD is American or West European and has a typical junk food diet, when in fact most of the world eats more: food cooked from scratch, low-fat (since meat and cheese are expensive), low sugar (since sugar is expensive too), color- additives free, high carbs though (the fillers: rice, wheat), alcohol (except the countries where religion bans it) pesticides and hormones in food are universal nowadays too. Also, obesity among kids and young people is very rare outside the Western world- as proof that high-fat diets are not the norm. Why not make a study about ADHD or autism in those countries? You could rule out some potential causes at least.

Saying that all those things cause adhd gives people who think that this disorder is bogus 1. even more arguments to argue with: but lots of kids are fat and they don't have adhd; 2. even more ways to blame parents: if you would eat healthy then adhd goes away. If it is genetic (according to Wikipedia there are 2 studies to prove this) why not just focus on that? Because, apparently, at some point in our lives, we're bound to run into something that triggers the adhd in our genes: bad food, little exercise, being bullied, parents getting a divorce, getting sick etc.

02-27-14, 12:49 PM
Also, the study doesn't take one thing into account: if the kids with adhd have lower dopamine levels, then they are more likely to become addicted to foods that give them a rush of dopamine in the first place (the very reason adhd-er are more likely to drink, smoke or do drugs than the average population).

02-27-14, 12:51 PM
I'll be the first to admit that there is bias in research, both cultural and population based. It's even true that studies on genetic correlates of disease that seem to be quite strong in certain populations don't always show the same correlation in other populations, making everything more complicated.

From the original post, it's hard to tell what the quality of the research is, but my guess is that it is a very small study that's gotten quite a bit of media attention. Not surprising, sadly, given the need of certain outlets to sensationalize everything.

As for why not focus on the genetics? Because as of this moment in time, we can alter the environment to suit our genetics much more easily than we can alter our genes to suit our environment. To use a medical example, if you're diabetic, you can't really change the fact that you are diabetic but you can take care of your health by eating a specific diet and managing symptoms with medication and monitoring of blood sugar levels.

02-28-14, 02:11 AM
Interestingly, my psych issues got really bad about 9 months after I did Atkins back in the day.

I lost maybe 65 lbs in 2 months, I used the so called 2 week "Induction" phase rules for the entire period.

I heard low carb diets make you cranky. Were you?

Canadian Mess
02-28-14, 03:39 PM
From my research on ADHD and food, the "western-style" diet is associated with higher rates of ADHD. A western-style diet is one where there are low micronutrients (like iron), high saturated fat, high carbohydrate content from simple sugar sources, high sodium, with less lean meat, fish, vegetables and fruits.

I don't have the links right now, but basically eating a "healthy-style" diet will not cure your ADHD or perhaps even lower your symptoms, but it is associated with a better quality of life making it easier to live with ADHD. It is not known if unhealthy diet contributes to the ADHD rate or if because a person with ADHD has executive function deficits It leads itself to eating a bad diet...

But the current recommendations would be to lower your saturated fat content, raise the unsaturated fat content, have more fruits and vegetables, dairy and protein.

02-28-14, 09:35 PM
These two links might interest some people that are interested in low carb induction, and low carb related energy, cravings, etc. If you are good at getting energy from fat, well in super short, that's a good thing - especially when you've got a lot of it on your body. The first two paragraphs are a quote from the article they link to.

Normally, fatty acids fuel low intensity exercise and carbs fuel high. This is because high intensity exercise requires a high rate of ATP production, and glycogen to lactate generates ATP faster than a speeding bullet. This is what makes power. Getting ATP from fatty acids is like draining maple syrup from trees [at first]. (

However, go low carb for long enough and the syrup begins to flow like water. I lack the time to show what “long enough” entails, but 4 out of 5 studies on low carb diets and performance that only last a few days will show this. Ketoadaptation takes time; ~3 weeks. (


EMF 4: Why Might You Need Carbs for Performance? (

03-01-14, 07:25 PM
I definitely think processed sugar plays a major part in many "disorders."

I did not realize how much I had reduced the amount of sugar in my "diet" until I had two fruit drinks I made following some recipes that called for additional sugar. I got a real "buzz." It felt scary.