Diet for Hyperactivity in Toddlers
Eliminating Food Additives
- Feingold proposed that numerous food additives contribute to hyperactivity in toddlers and other children, and he suggested a diet free of artificial colors, artificial flavors, aspartame and several common preservatives. Many of Feingold's contemporaries have additionally suggested that monosodium glutamate (MSG) and sodium benzoate also play a role in hyperactivity in children.
Feingold's theories were largely dismissed as invalid, but recent science has confirmed some of his theories. In February 2008, the American Academy of Pediatrics released a statement acknowledging that a low-additive diet can be a valid, successful intervention for treating children with hyperactivity.
A Sugar Rush?
- Contrary to popular misconception, sugar has never been documented to cause hyperactivity in children of any age, including toddlers. An analysis released in 2008 by the Critical Review of Food Science Nutrition indicated that there is "no evidence that [sugar] has an adverse influence" on the behavior of children. However, a diet very high in simple sugars may contribute to hyperactivity in toddlers.
According to one trial, which was published by the journal Food and Cosmetics Toxicology in 1978, found that children with hyperactivity are likely to suffer from reactive hypoglycemia. This common condition includes a "sugar rush" followed by a period of attention deficit. While sugar is one cause of reactive hypoglycemia, other foods like potatoes and white bread are more likely to cause blood-glucose fluctuations.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
- DHA, an omega-3 fatty acid, is known to be an essential nutrient for proper brain development in babies and toddlers. Recently, some research has indicated that omega-3 deficiency---an extremely common condition for children eating a standard American diet---may be an underlying cause of hyperactivity. A team of Swedish scientists found that one in four hyperactive children experienced a significant reduction in hyperactivity symptoms while taking omega-3 supplements.
While supplementation can be useful, dietary changes are the most successful method for improving a child's intake of omega-3 fats. For toddlers and babies, breastmilk is the highest-quality source of brain-boosting omega-3 fatty acids. Other food sources include flaxseed and fatty fish like salmon. A healthy, whole-food diet can be the safest, most successful treatment for toddler hyperactivity.