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Following Healthy Lifestyle Recommendations May Reduce ADHD Risk

May 11, 2020

Children who meet a greater number of established recommendations for a healthy lifestyle at age 10 or 11 are less likely to receive a diagnosis of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) by age 14, suggests a study published in Psychosomatic Medicine.

“The incidence of ADHD among children and youth is high, and temporal increases have been paralleled by deteriorating lifestyles. Poor diet quality, physical inactivity, poor sleep habits, and sedentary behaviors have all been associated with ADHD,” researchers wrote. 

“However, no earlier prospective study has examined the independent and combined importance of meeting established lifestyle recommendations in childhood for ADHD in adolescence.”

Researchers collected survey information on lifestyle for 3436 children ages 10 and 11 as well as linked health data until age 14. They examined the data for associations between adherence to 9 specific lifestyle recommendations and ADHD diagnosis and physician visits. Just over 10% of the study population received an ADHD diagnosis by age 14.

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Meeting recommendations for vegetables and fruit, meat and alternatives, saturated fat, added sugar, and physical activity was associated with fewer ADHD diagnoses, the study found.

Meeting 7 to 9 lifestyle recommendations, meanwhile, was associated with substantially lower incidence of ADHD and fewer physician visits related to ADHD, compared with meeting 1 to 3 recommendations.

For each additional lifestyle recommendation a child followed, the likelihood of an ADHD diagnosis dropped 18%, according to Medscape coverage of the study.

“Lifestyle recommendations exist to benefit development and physical health,” researchers wrote. “Their promotion comes at no harm and may have benefits for ADHD.”

 —Jolynn Tumolo


Loewen OK, Maximova K, Ekwaru JP, Asbridge M, Ohinmaa A, Veugelers PJ. Adherence to life-style recommendations and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder: a population-based study of children aged 10 to 11 years. Psychosomatic Medicine. 2020;82(3):305-315.

Vlessides M. Can a healthy lifestyle reduce ADHD incidence in children? Medscape. April 22, 2020.

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