There are three essential facts that parents need to know about their children’s diet.
1. The nervous system, along with the rest of the body, continues to grow, mature and develop long after birth. During this process of development the nervous system needs a balanced diet to provide all the building blocks needed for this growth but it particularly needs animal fats to provide the insulating material myelin which will cover the fast conduction nerve fibres both in the central nervous system and the peripheral nervous system.
2. During this process of growth and development the nervous system also needs fuel – oxygen and glucose – but it doesn’t need too much sugar at any one time. Children who are fussy eaters insidiously create their own diet often based on nothing but carbohydrates and pure sugars. This floods the system with too much fuel and causes a temporary “high” which perversely the brain enjoys and this triggers a specific area of brain “the pleasure centre” which then craves the next “high”. Mothers are often duped in to providing their child with the foods they want and fuel the cravings by feeding the child with crisps, biscuits, cakes and high glucose drinks.
3. Unfortunately, there is a second complication to this child-driven diet in that it often contains high levels of stabilizers, colourants, etc. etc. which the immature brain cannot cope with. Aspartame, used in many soft drinks has been implicated in what has been called “glutamate storms”. That is, it would appear that aspartame triggers a cascade effect where excessive amounts of glutamate (an excitatory neurotransmitter) are liberated resulting in hyperactive and often pointless, destructive behaviour in children.
So, if too much fuel and excessive food additives exceed the developing brains limited ability to cope, what can the parent do to help?
1. Rule out cereals and toast for breakfast and introduce a cooked breakfast.
2. Cut out all snack foods e.g. crisps, chocolates, fizzy drinks and check the labels carefully for additives.
3. If you are providing a packed lunch avoid the easy way out by providing prepared and snack foods and use a little creativity that just might tickle your child’s appetite.
4. Introduce more fruit into the diet. This can replace the snack children often have on getting home from school.
5. The evening meal should be home cooked and contain fresh meat/fish and vegetables.
6. Carbohydrates should be provided in moderation. At all costs avoid the scenario in which the child dictates their diet and has toast for breakfast, crisps and biscuits mid-morning, chips for lunch, crisps, biscuits and cake mid-afternoon and pasta for supper.
Two weeks on this modified diet may well be enough in of itself to bring about noticeable changes in behaviour.
Omegas 3 & 6 the essential fatty acids 60% of the brain is made of fat. Of that fat 20% has to be made up of essential fatty acids. There is good evidence that most children do not get sufficient omega 3 from their diet and if the diet is poor or restricted may be deficient in omega 6 as well. If a child is struggling to develop it is suggested that their diet should be supplemented with omegas 3-6, certain vitamins and minerals.
It is not just our children that may be suffering as a report from the Mental Health Foundation – Feeding Minds – suggests that most adults are not ingesting sufficient essential fatty acids and this may contribute to an increased probability of adult ADHD, anxiety, depression, schizophrenia and dementia.
If you are considering adding fish oils to your child’s diet, talk to your local advisor (Health Food Shop/Chemist) to ensure that the oils are free of contaminants. For further information about diet see – The Brain Food Plan
For further information about Carina Norris the co-author of The Brain Food Plan visit www.carinanorris.co.uk.
For sometime now we have all been made aware of the importance of essential fatty acids to the development of our children’s nervous systems. Now new research has shown that adding zinc sulphate enhances the action of these essential fatty acids both in the building of the cell wall and in the manufacture of certain neurotransmitters.
The authors of one study stated Zinc supplements may exert their positive effects by helping to regulate the function of the neurotransmitter dopamine. Dopamine signalling, which has been implicated in causing symptoms of ADHD, is believed to play an important role in the feelings of pleasure and reward.
This ‘pleasure area’ is thought to be the main reason why so many children with Developmental Delay Syndromes crave junk food and establish a carbohydrate diet for themselves thus fuelling their addiction. This seeming addiction to sugars and the high intake of E numbers complicates and perpetuates the underlying neurophysiological disorder.
Currently, based on research from different parts of the globe it is suggested that adding zinc sulphate to the daily administration of omega 3 & 6 (essential fatty acids) enhances the action of Ritalin or may be used in its place. This is very exciting news as at present there is a great deal of concern about the use of Ritalin and the long-term affects it may have. As zinc is a normal part of our diet and as far as we know has no side-effects apart from a metallic taste in the mouth and/or nausea in some cases, this may prove to be a valuable aid in the treatment of conditions such as ADHD.
It is readily available from Boot’s the Chemist in their own brand – Zinc One a Day 15mg. All the research to date has used 55mg a day. At present I am using common sense and suggesting a dosage related to body weight until such times as more research has been conducted and a formula for dosage established.
A Polish study of children with ADHD found that almost all of them (95%) were deficient in magnesium and that the greater the deficiency the more severe the symptoms. When some of the children were given magnesium supplements to restore the deficiency their symptoms improved, while those in the trial who did not receive the supplements continued to deteriorate.
Adequate levels of magnesium are also needed for a good nights sleep.
The Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) for magnesium – Age 1-3yrs 80 mg, 4-8yrs 130 mg, 9-12yrs 240 mg.
Significantly lower levels than normal have been found in ADHD sufferers. Iron deficiency anaemia can cause fatigue which will of itself impact upon learning. You should contact your GP before giving iron supplements to children.
By now we are all aware of E numbers but are you sure you know just where they may be hiding. Some oven ready chips contain them, as do most fish fingers and the drinks kids love to consume in vast quantities.
Recent newspaper articles have highlighted the Government backed research at Southampton University into food additives and behavioural problems.
Food colourings and preservatives (stabilizers) have been found to fuel temper tantrums and hyperactivity in children, worryingly, as young as three.
The Hyperactive Children’s Support Group recommends that the following be avoided:-
E102, E104, 107, E110, E120, E122, E123, E124, E127, 128, E132, E133, E150, E151, 154, 155, E160B, E210, E211, E220, E250 E251, E320 & E321.
Babies and young children should not be given:-
E213, E214, E215, E216, E217, E218, E219, E310, E311, E312, E420, E421, 621, 622, 623, 627, 631 & 635.
Asthma sufferers should avoid:-
E211, E212, E213, E214, E215, E216, E217, E218, E219, E310, E311, E312, E321, E421, 621, 622, 623, 627, 631 & 635.
Also Azo dyes:-
E102, 107, E110, E122, E123, E124, E128, E129, E151, 154, 155 & E180
E220, E221, E222, E223, E224, E225, E226 & E227
The following are possibly carcinogenic (tending to cause cancer):-
E110, E123, E127, E153, E249, E250, E251, E252, E320, E321, 905, 907 & E954.
If in doubt take a look at – What’s really in your basket? By Bill Statham.
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