They are what they eat
Do you have a ‘hyperactive’ child? It’s always the argumentative one with the temper tantrums. The faddy eater who doesn’t seem to listen when spoken to, fidgeting and squirming in his seat. The one who infuriates you because he can’t wait his turn, constantly interrupting, as if to show you up as a bad parent incapable of teaching him manners. Exhausted from sleepless nights and chaotic days, it’s difficult to keep your cool and there are times when you feel close to losing control.
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is commonly treated with prescription drugs and/or psychotherapy. No regard is given to the child’s environment, nutritional requirements or digestive health, which is strange, since it’s well-established that all these factors significantly influence human behaviour.
Many ADHD children also suffer from various health problems such as food intolerances, gut problems, skin rashes and low immunity. There is considerable evidence that such children have vitamin and mineral deficiencies and require digestive support as well as higher amounts of essential fatty acids to feed their brains. It is astounding that the multidisciplinary team providing a diagnosis and management of hyperactive children doesn’t include a nutritional consultant. This utter failure to address underlying biochemical causes is, in my own view, a form of child abuse.
Government backed studies have been in the news recently, connecting behavioural disorders in children with the consumption of food additives and preservatives. After years of warnings, the evidence is now so strong that even the British Medical Association has agreed that all junk food adverts before the 9.00 pm watershed should be banned.
The response from junk food manufacturers has been predictable and it’s hard to take issue with their desire to protect their own interests. But it is necessary to take issue with the failure thus far of our government to stand up to these pressures. Official tactics follow a common 3-step defence process: Denial, Delay and Diversion. Diversionary action is employed by telling vending machine manufacturers to cut down on sugar levels in drinks instead of banning them, or letting Cadbury’s build a few sports halls instead of removing their ads during prime time TV. Once the sequence completes, it restarts again at the Denial phase.
We do expect our political leaders to make hard choices on our behalf and to ban the promotion of killer foods. If harmful substances are being produced and marketed at kids for commercial gain, then the practice should be stopped. No questions, no ‘ifs’ or ‘buts’ – it must simply stop.
Sally Bunday from the Hyperactive Children’s Support Group (HACSG) has been campaigning for almost 30 years to have junk removed from kid’s foods, drawing attention to the role of nutrition in childhood behaviour problems. With her mother, Vicky Colquhoun, she published an important research paper about the potential role of essential fatty acids in ADHD. Sally’s achievements have been truly phenomenal, and she continues to offer science-based information and practical support to parents of hyperactive children, schools, health professionals and policymakers.
For more information, please write to The HACSG, 71 Whyke Lane, Chichester, West Sussex PO19 7PD or visit www.hacsg.org.uk.
© 2011 Martina Watts MSc Nut Med, First Published Brighton Argus June 2004