The publication today, of a new study claiming to have found a genetic cause for ADHD has prompted a rash of ‘Don’t blame bad parenting for ADHD – it’s all in the genes’ headlines – and a torrent of criticism from other ADHD experts and medical journalists – see BBC medical correspondent Fergus Walsh’s blog.
Caution in interpreting these results is well advised as the figures scarcely amount to that much: the study analysed 366 children with ADHD and 1,047 controls and found that one in seven of the ADHD children had specific bits of DNA missing/duplicated in contrast to only one in 14 of the control children.
Critics (including Professor Tim Kendall, a leading expert on ADHD) point out that a genetic predisposition to behavioural conditions such as ADHD is already a known and accepted possibility but that there are a whole raft of environmental factors from smoking during pregnancy to marital breakdown of parents and poverty that can also increase the risk of ADHD and that it would be incorrect and dangerous to blame the condition on genes alone.
All other considerations aside, such an emphasis could encourage parents and doctors to turn to drugs such as Ritalin (already accepted to be heavily over prescribed and to have significant side effects) to correct what is perceived as a biological problem rather than education, training for parents and teachers and other practical interventions and support.
This is all good stuff and I entirely agree but… there seems to be one elephant in the room that no one is acknowledging: diet.
Only a month ago I blogged about the mothballing of the Hyperactive Children’s Support Group, the UK’s leading charity supporting dietary intervention in ADHD and hyperactivity, because they could not longer get enough funding to carry on. Not only the HACSG, but the Feingold Association in the US and the another US group, the Association for Comprehensive NeuroTherapy , often quoted in foodsmatter.com, have catalogued thousands of cases where dietary intervention, in terms of additive/allergen removal – often combined with the removal of environmental/chemical triggers – has had truly miraculous effects on children with behavioural problems.
No one is saying that diet is the only answer or that genetics, educational interventions, better parenting skills or less stressful environments are not also implicated in behavioural conditions – such conditions are complex, multifactoral and need to be approached from many angles. But dietary intervention is the only one which has no side effects (unless they be beneficial in terms of a less processed, healthier diet), costs the health authorities nothing and requires minimal training and education to implement.
So why not at least try it…
Could it be that neither the drug companies, the many agencies offering complex interventions nor the food industry would benefit from families ‘treating’ their hyperactive children by changing their diets to exclude processed, additive-filled foods in favour of fresh, wholefoods prepared at home?…