Taipei, Aug. 14 (CNA) Scientists in Taiwan have discovered that attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is connected to such co-existing conditions such as allergies and anemia, which can be treated through a healthy diet, Academia Sinica said Tuesday.
According to information provided by Academia Sinica, ADHD is a common neuropsychiatric disorder that affects about 5-7 percent of children in Taiwan. The main symptoms are hyperactivity, lack of impulse control and inattention that can lead to problems at school, in familial relationships, and social interactions.
The known causes of ADHD are congenital and irreversible, such as genetics, brain damage or even when a mother smokes, drinks alcohol or uses drugs during pregnancy, said Academia Sinica researcher Pan Wen-harn (潘文涵) on Tuesday.
As such, the main aim for this research, "was to identify other factors contributing to ADHD which can be changed," she added.
By comparing 216 students diagnosed with ADHD to 216 non-affected students, all selected from 31 elementary schools in Taipei and aged between 8-10, Pan's research team found that anemia, lower levels of hemoglobin and serotonin, higher IgE level and eosinophil count are related to the development of ADHD. The last two biochemicals are known to play a critical role in allergic inflammation.
According to Pan and the team, the more of those biochemical risk factors or allergies a child has, the higher the likelihood he or she will develop ADHD.
While it is 1.87 times more likely for a child with one of the factors to have ADHD compared to a child with none of the factors, that climbs to as high as 6.53 times if a child has all four, according to the research.
As for allergies, if a child has 2 or more allergic diseases, including asthma, rhinitis, and eczema, he/she is 2.34 times more likely to have ADHD.
Meanwhile, by analyzing and comparing the diets of children diagnosed with and without ADHD, researchers found that children with ADHD have a preference for nutrient-poor food, and a lower intake of vegetables, fruit and protein-rich foods than their counterparts.
Pan also said, "the serum level of inorganic phosphate concentration in the ADHD children group is high, which is a new discovery in ADHD research."
Inorganic phosophate is commonly used in sweetened beverages and food processing for color and taste, Pan said.
Due to the complex causes of ADHD, researchers speculate that by adhering to a strict and healthy diet it could be possible to mitigate its symptoms.
Pan advised parents of ADHD children to check if their children have other conditions such as allergies or anemia.
"We suggest maintaining good eating habits, which will benefit children by relieving some of the conditions," Pan said.