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8 Risk Factors for Attention Issues in Children

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and attention deficit disorder (ADD) are developmental disorders characterized by impulsiveness, restlessness and hyperactivity, as well as inattentiveness. These disorders can often prevent children from learning and socializing well. While no one is exactly sure what causes ADD /ADHD, risk factors include:

  1. Poor diet – a diet high in “junk food” in early childhood is more likely to cause a long-term nutritional imbalance. Excessive consumption of refined carbohydrates and sugar negatively affects learning ability and increases aggressive and restless behavior in children. Hydrogenated oils/trans fats take the place of healthy, natural, and essential fatty acids, they also harden cell membranes, interfere with the ability to transport nutrients into the cell and remove waste materials from cells, cause problems with energy metabolism, decrease good HDL and increase total cholesterol, increase risk of cardiovascular disease, increase risk for diabetes, increase inflammation, lower immunity, interfere with enzymes, contribute to neurological problems, etc.
  2. Synthetic dyes, artificial flavors, and preservatives can be disruptive to behavior and mood.
  3. Food sensitivities – a gluten-free, casein-free diet may lead to improvements in behavior and physiological symptoms in some children diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD).  A strict gluten-free, casein-free diet was shown to improve GI symptoms in children with ASD as well as increase their social behaviors, such as language production, eye contact, engagement, attention span, requesting behavior and social responsiveness.
  4. Nutrient deficiencies – numerous studies have shown evidence of mineral deficiencies in children with ADHD, namely, zinc, iron, calcium, magnesium, and selenium. Consumption of certain artificial food additives can lead to various nutrient deficiencies in some individuals, in particular zinc deficiency, which can exacerbate anxiety and conduct disorder problems. A disturbance in the zinc:copper ratio is also evident, with high levels of copper being found in many ADHD children.
  5. Environmental toxins and contaminants – exposure to metals (lead, cadmium, mercury, aluminum), solvents, pesticides, polychlorinated biphenyls, or other environmental toxins has been linked to ADHD. It has been proposed that prenatal and perinatal insults to the developing brain, including environmental toxins, can disturb the timetable of expression of neurotransmitters and their receptors. Chelation therapy for binding heavy metals in the body may improve social interaction, cognitive function, and behavior.
  6. Electronic media – it is believed that early television watching may overstimulate a developing brain of a young child, and lead to sensory addiction. As a result, children may have an inability to regulate their own behavior, motivating the need for more stimulus-seeking behavior. Restlessness, anxiety, and impulsivity may result from a perceived lack of stimulation.
  7. Lack of natural light – exposure to cool-white fluorescent lights appears to affect learning ability in children, and research suggests that it may also be linked with the incidence of attention-deficit disorder and hyperactivity. One study showed that there was a 32-percent reduction in hyperactive behavior in children when fluorescent lighting was removed from their classrooms.
  8. Inactivity – physical exercise enhances brain activity and modulates neurotransmitter systems, thereby improving memory, concentration, learning, and mood. Regular exercise that is cognitively, socially, and aerobically challenging offers the most benefit.
Article written by Margo Gladding, MS, CNS, LDN for Ellicott City Pharmacy.

Aug 21, 2012 | Category: Diet, Health, Pediatrics | Comments: none | Tags: , , , , , ,

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