Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD, is a condition characterized by impulsive behavior, difficulty paying attention, and hyperactivity. This common disorder affects between 3 and 5 percent of children in the United States, according to MedlinePlus. Medical treatment for ADHD often includes the use of prescribed medications. The Feingold diet has also been used to reduce the various symptoms of ADHD.
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The Feingold diet is an elimination diet, meaning that many different types of foods are eliminated from the diet to see if the ADHD-associated behaviors improve. Foods that are eliminated in a Feingold diet include those that contain certain preservatives. The preservatives to avoid are BHA, BHT and TBHQ. These compounds serve as antioxidants, meaning that they prevent components of the food from oxidizing and becoming spoiled.
The Feingold diet also excludes any foods that have had artificial dyes. Dyes are often added to processed foods to give them an exceptionally bright color. These colors must be listed in the list of ingredients and often have names like "Red 40" or "Yellow #1." Many foods that are marketed toward children contain dyes, such as gelatin and breakfast cereals.
Foods and medications made with a group of chemically related compounds called salicylates are also excluded from the Feingold diet. One common medication that is made of a salicylate compound is aspirin, and thus people eating a Feingold diet are instructed to avoid this pain reliever. Many natural foods that contain salicylates are also excluded in the Feingold diet, including apples and apple juice; chili peppers, chili powder and bell peppers; tomatoes, plums, prunes, berries, peaches, oranges and grapes.
Harvard Health Publications notes that, although some parents have reported that their children with ADHD have benefited greatly from eating a strict Feingold diet, no scientific studies have reported data supporting the effectiveness of this diet in reducing the symptoms of ADHD. Make sure to consult with your child's pediatrician before beginning him on a Feingold diet, especially since this diet excludes many fruits and vegetables that would provide him with healthy nutrients.