Category Archives: Learning Difficulties

Learning difficulties and ADHD may be linked with childhood obesity

FoodFacts.com tries to stay aware of the latest news regarding the growing obesity epidemic and how it affects the health and well being of the population. Today we found an interesting study out of the University of Illinois that highlights a possible link between diets high in fat and conditions that affect children in our country like ADHD and learning disabilities connected to memory.

Both childhood obesity and childhood conditions like ADHD and learning disabilities have been on an upsurge. The researchers involved in this study explored the effects of a high-fat diet (with 60% of its calories derived from fat) versus a low-fat diet with only 10% of calories coming from fat on the behavior of two different groups of one month old mice. Before the mice on the high-fat diet were able to gain any weight from their food consumption, the behavior of the group began to change.

The mice on the high-fat diet experienced an increase in anxiety, evidenced by increased burrowing and wheel running as well as a hesitance to explore available open spaces. Those same mice also developed learning and memory problems. They experienced difficulty negotiating a maize as well as difficulty recognizing objects. When some of these mice were switched over to a low-fat diet, their memory was back to normal in one week’s time.

Some of the mice were kept on the high-fat diet and the memory problems continued for a three week period. At about 10 weeks, their bodies seemed to compensate for the diet – but by that point the mice became obese and developed diabetes. These results suggested to researchers that a high-fat diet could possibly trigger anxiety and memory problems in children.

While the researchers expected that the high-fat diet would encourage inflammation which is associated with obesity, they didn’t see an inflammatory response in the brains of the mice consuming the higher-fat food. What they did find, however, was the initiation of a chemical response that was similar to the responses seen in addiction … the increase of dopamine, which is associated with pleasurable feelings in an addict. The increase in dopamine is felt to have triggered the anxious behaviors and learning difficulties in the high-fat diet group. It was noted that the increase of dopamine in the brain is common to both the ADHD condition as well as obesity.

FoodFacts.com found the information in this study to be very valuable. While we understand that further research must be conducted to clarify these results, and we understand that not every child with ADHD or a learning disability is obese, the study certainly calls into question how diets high in fat affect our children. Let’s continue to be mindful of building healthy nutrition habits for our families and to develop a deeper understanding of how the foods we (and our children) eat affect our health and well being.

Read more: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/02/130219121021.htm

ADHD, learning difficulties and the benefits of DHA

Some incredibly encouraging research coming out of Australia regarding the benefits of DHA for kids with ADHD and other learning difficulties seems to corroborate other study findings that were available last month. FoodFacts.com wanted to share this information with our community, as we are aware of how many families are looking for answers for their children.

Often ADHD exists with kids who often have other learning difficulties. The conditions can be co-morbid (often found together) in a child. And a new nutritional study suggests that a high intake of omega-3 fatty acids that contain DHA can help make improvements for these children.

90 Australian children ranging in age from 7 to 12 participated in the study. All the kids involved had ADHD symptoms that rated higher than the 90th percentile on the scale used to determine the condition called the Conners Rating Scale. The children were given the supplements for a four month period.

At the end of that period it was found that there was a link between the increased levels of DHA and improved reading and behavior. Most telling, though, was that the children who had ADHD and learning difficulties showed a significant improvement in reading, spelling, the ability to divide attention, hyperactivity and restlessness.

They concluded that in fact that increasing levels of DHA may improve both schoolwork and behavior in ADHD kids and that children who present with both ADHD and learning difficulties may enjoy the biggest advantages.

This study from Australia comes on the heels of a study from Great Britain that also associated that daily supplementation of omega-3 fatty acids is linked to improve reading and behavior in kids with learning difficulties.

That study, out of the University of Oxford involved kids between the ages and seven and nine who were underperforming on standardized tests. These kids were also given omega-3 with DHA supplements. The study determined that the kids taking these supplements improved their reading. In fact, there were 224 kids reading at or below the 20th percentile level. Over the 16 week trial period, the improvement in their reading was 20% greater than would normally be expected. And for the 105 kids in that initial group whose reading was below the 10th percentile, their improvement was 50% better than previously expected.

Both of these studies present parents with a simple and natural option when looking for help for their kids with ADHD and learning difficulties. Fish oil supplements are widely available throughout our country. They present no danger for our children and the benefits could truly make this a worthwhile undertaking for families looking for ways to help their children improve their behavior and their academic performance.

FoodFacts.com invites you to read more:
http://www.foodconsumer.org/newsite/Nutrition/Supplements/dha_improves_adhd_1008120643.html
http://psychcentral.com/news/2012/09/10/omega-3-may-help-underperforming-kids/44381.html