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Why do One in Ten Kids in the U.S. Have ADHD?

November 27, 2010 | 85,206 views
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ADHDA U.S. government survey claims that 1 in 10 U.S. children now has ADHD. This is a sizable increase from a few years earlier. ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) makes it hard for children to pay attention and control impulsive behavior.

About two-thirds of the children diagnosed with ADHD are on some form of prescription medication.

According to AP medical writer Mike Stobbe:

"In the latest survey, 9.5 percent said a doctor or health care provider had told them their child had ADHD ... ADHD diagnosis is in many ways a matter of opinion.

There's no blood test or brain-imaging exam for the condition. Sometimes reading disabilities or other problems in the classroom cause a teacher or others to mistakenly think a child has ADHD."

Researchers suggested growing awareness and better screening may be responsible for the rising numbers, but there are a number of food additives that experts think may worsen ADHD as well. They include:

  • Blue #1 and #2 food coloring
  • Green #3
  • Orange B
  • Red #3 and #40
  • Yellow #5 and #6
  • Sodium benzoate, a preservative

According to Health.com:

"Will eliminating dye-containing foods from a child's diet help ADHD? Experts say there's not enough evidence ... Most studies of a possible link analyzed blends of additives, not single ingredients, making it difficult to find a culprit."

 

Dr. Mercola's Comments:

When the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) surveyed 73,000 children, they found one in 10 has ADHD -- a 22 percent increase since 2003. In all this brings the number of U.S. kids with the disorder to over 5 million, about 1 million more than had it a few years ago.

As for why this massive increase occurred, there appears to be some serious head-scratching going on, and researchers could only say it could be due to greater awareness and more screening efforts.

I would argue, however, that Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) seems to have become more or less the catchall designations for children who do not “behave well” -- and at least one study suggests that many children may be misdiagnosed.

One Million ADHD Kids May be Misdiagnosed

A study published in the Journal of Health Economics determined that about 20 percent of children have likely been misdiagnosed. That’s nearly 1 million children in the United States alone.

The study found that many of the youngest children in any given grade level are perceived as exhibiting “symptoms” of ADHD, such as fidgeting and inability to concentrate, simply because they’re younger and being compared to their older, more mature classmates.

In fact, the youngest students were 60 percent more likely to be diagnosed with ADHD than the oldest in the same grade. And when you take into account the maturity level, and in large part normal behavior of a 6 versus a 7-year old, you can easily see why.

Science Daily wrote:

 “… the "smoking gun" of the study is that ADHD diagnoses depend on a child's age relative to classmates and the teacher's perceptions of whether the child has symptoms.

If a child is behaving poorly, if he's inattentive, if he can't sit still, it may simply be because he's 5 and the other kids are 6," said Elder, assistant professor of economics. "There's a big difference between a 5-year-old and a 6-year-old, and teachers and medical practitioners need to take that into account when evaluating whether children have ADHD."

Additionally, it’s important for parents to remain in charge and make their own assessments known, as the study also concluded that:

 “A child’s birth date relative to the eligibility cutoff also strongly influences teachers’ assessments of whether the child exhibits ADHD symptoms but is only weakly associated with similarly measured parental assessments, suggesting that many diagnoses may be driven by teachers’ perceptions of poor behavior among the youngest children in a classroom.

These perceptions have long-lasting consequences: the youngest children in fifth and eighth grades are nearly twice as likely as their older classmates to regularly use stimulants prescribed to treat ADHD.”

Confusion in How to “Diagnose” ADHD

Diagnosing ADHD really comes down to a matter of opinion, as there is no physical test, like a brain scan, that can pinpoint the condition. There’s only subjective evaluation, and, for better or worse, teachers can play a significant role in this evaluation.

Along with inattention and hyperactive-impulsive behavior, the two “hallmarks” of the disorder, children may also show the following symptoms:

  • Frequent fidgeting or squirming
  • Feels restless or often runs and climbs excessively, or leaves his or her seat in the classroom when not appropriate
  • Has difficulty playing quietly
  • Talks excessively, interrupts often, and may blurt out answers to questions at inappropriate times
  • Always seems on the go
  • Has difficulty waiting his or her turn

As you can see, many of these “symptoms” could describe most children at one time or another! Therefore, only those who struggle with inattention and hyperactive or impulsive behaviors around the clock are candidates for the ADHD label, but it is frequently given to many other children as well.

Given that two-thirds of children diagnosed with ADHD are prescribed medication -- drugs that often contain different formulations of methylphenidate, a powerful psychostimulant drug that is in the same class as cocaine -- receiving an ADHD diagnosis unnecessarily can be very harmful to a child.

What About Food Additives?

There are a number of theories to explain the rise in ADHD diagnoses, and there could be some instances where kids are displaying the above-mentioned symptoms due to external influences.

Among them, exposure to food additives including preservatives and food coloring may cause ADHD-like symptoms. These chemicals have a particularly pernicious synergy if they are combined with sugars such as fructose.

For instance, a study published in the journal The Lancet concluded that a variety of common food dyes, and the preservative sodium benzoate -- found in many soft drinks, fruit juices and salad dressings -- cause some children to become measurably more hyperactive and distractible.

The study also found that the E-numbered food dyes (such as tartrazine (E102), ponceau 4R (E124), sunset yellow (E110), carmoisine (E122), quinoline yellow (E104) and allura red AC (E129) do as much damage to children's brains as lead in gasoline, resulting in a significant reduction in IQ.

The results of this study prompted the British Food Standards Agency (FSA) to issue an immediate advisory to parents, warning them to limit their children's intake of additives if they notice an effect on behavior. They also advised the food industry to voluntarily remove the six food dyes named in the study in 2009 and replace them with natural alternatives if possible.

Of course, the United States has not followed suit in issuing any similar warnings to American parents.

What Else Could be Causing Increased Symptoms of ADHD?

A key factor, I believe, is eating foods that one was not designed to eat.

We know the food choices of most children -- and adults -- today are incredibly poor. How can you possibly expect a child to have normal behavior if he is fed refined grains, sugars, processed foods loaded with chemicals and genetically engineered ingredients, and juices and sodas instead of pure water?

It is virtually impossible to have a healthy functioning brain when the proper building blocks to develop or maintain a healthy brain are not being given!

Most notably, children who consume highly processed foods loaded with high fructose corn syrup and fruit juices tend to have a higher rate and severity of these symptoms. While organic whole grains are superior to processed ones, many children with ADHD do not respond well to most grains, especially wheat.

Other theories that may also be leading to an increase of ADHD-like symptoms include:

  • Genetic factors -- Some scientists are now aiming their research at finding genes that may make a person more susceptible to this disorder.
  • Environmental toxins -- A 2006 study found that a mother's use of cigarettes, alcohol, or other drugs during pregnancy could increase the risk for ADHD. Exposure to lead and mercury may also cause ADHD symptoms, and pesticides and the industrial chemicals polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) have also been named as potential culprits.
  • Allergic reactions -- Chemically-sensitive people may exhibit ADHD symptoms when exposed to something as simple as clothing washed with perfumed and chemical-laden soap. Permanent press or stain-resistant products also contain chemicals that can initiate ADHD-like reactions in sensitive individuals.
  • Increased number of childhood vaccinations – One 2007 survey found a strong correlation between rates of neurological disorders, such as ADHD, and childhood vaccinations. Vaccine adjuvants have also been associated with ADHD-type neurological problems.
  • Fluoridated water
  • Emotionally unstable home environments -- Stress is the frequently unappreciated and overlooked variable that can easily worsen ADHD. If the parents are having trouble in their relationship this can easily influence the child’s behavior.
  • Increased rates of birth interventions. This can result in birth trauma and lack of oxygen in the newborn, which significantly increases the risk of developmental delay.

Be Careful With Labeling Your Child With ADHD

The majority of kids diagnosed with ADHD will be prescribed potentially dangerous drugs. It is my sincere hope that people will begin to realize that drug therapy, if at all necessary, should be a very last resort when it comes to behavioral problems such as ADHD, used only after all other options have been exhausted.

Unfortunately, U.S. pharmacists distribute five times more Ritalin than the rest of the world combined, according to Dr. Samuel Epstein’s Cancer Prevention Coalition (CPC).  In all, 60 percent to 90 percent of U.S. kids with attention deficit disorders are prescribed this powerful drug, which amounts to 3 percent to 5 percent of U.S. children and teens on Ritalin.

By definition, Ritalin stimulates your central nervous system, leading to side effects such as: 

  • Increased blood pressure
  • Increased heart rate
  • Increased body temperature
  • Increased alertness
  • Suppressed appetite

Research has also linked Ritalin with more severe health problems such as cancer as well as an increased probability of suicidal thoughts and behavior.

Ritalin also has the same pharmacological profile as cocaine, yet its effects are even more potent. Using brain imaging, scientists have found that, in pill form, Ritalin occupies more of the neural transporters responsible for the “high” experienced by addicts than smoked or injected cocaine.

In essence, we have created a large body of new drug addicts, priming them for addiction from an extremely young age. And most of these kids are receiving the drugs unnecessarily, when they’ve been either misdiagnosed or the true underlying causes of their hyperactive behavior have not been recognized!

Natural Tips for Treating ADHD and ADHD-Like Symptoms

If your child has been diagnosed with ADHD or displays ADHD-like symptoms, first be sure they have been given an assessment that is appropriate for their age to rule out that their “acting out” is actually normal.

Then, implement the following strategies before resorting to medications, as often they work exceptionally well in treating this condition:

  • Eliminate most grains and sugars from your child’s diet. Grains and sugars both tend to cause allergies in sensitive individuals. Even organic, whole grain can cause problems in many children so it would be wise to give them a grain holiday and see if their behavior improves.
  • Replace soft drinks (whether diet and regular), fruit juices, and pasteurized milk with pure, clean non-fluoridated water. While you may believe fruit juices are a healthy option to soda, they aren’t and need to be avoided as strictly as soda does.
  • Increase omega-3 fats by taking a high quality animal-based omega-3 oil. Research has confirmed that something as simple as animal-based omega-3 fat can improve the symptoms of ADHD more effectively than drugs like Ritalin and Concerta. In my view, krill oil is the best option for this. It contains essential EPA and DHA in a double chain phospholipid structure that makes it far more absorbable than the omega-3s in fish oil.
  • Minimize your use of nearly all processed fats, especially trans fats as they disrupt nerve cell intercommunication.
  • Avoid all processed foods, especially those containing artificial colors, flavors and preservatives, which may trigger or worsen symptoms.
  • Clear your house of dangerous pesticides and other commercial chemicals. Pesticide exposure has been linked with ADHD.
  • Avoid commercial washing detergents and cleaning products used on clothes, and replace them with naturally derived cleaning products with no added perfumes, softeners, etc.
  • Spend more time in nature. Researchers have found that exposing ADHD children to nature is an affordable, healthy way of controlling symptoms.
  • Investigate sensory therapy and emotional wellness tools. Instead of looking for a quick fix, encourage ADHD sufferers to talk, and find out what emotions are causing issues. You may want to consider the energy tapping techniques to improve emotional coping and healing.

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