Can Environmental Factors Cause ADHD?

Some environmental factors such as toxins, food additives, and lead paint, can lead to ADHD.

By Reader's Digest Editors

Although the majority of research shows that Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is hereditary, a growing body of research suggests that childhood exposure to certain environmental factors may increase the risk and symptoms of ADHD.

Understanding all of the factors that contribute to ADHD is difficult. There is no test that can accurately diagnose a patient with the disorder; but following a healthy lifestyle and avoiding certain environmental toxins may decrease the symptoms of ADHD in children.

What environmental factors may reduce your risk?

Toxins in pregnancy:
Pregnant women who are exposed to environmental toxins like tobacco, alcohol, and illicit drugs may reduce the activity of vital nerve cells (neurons) which produce neurotransmitters in their baby’s brain. This reduction may increase the risk of having a baby born with ADHD. Along with a healthy diet, pregnant women should be mindful of the environmental factors they’re exposed to during pregnancy to give their baby the best start in life.

Food additives:
Kids who eat a wholesome diet may be far less hyperactive than their peers who consume a highly-processed diet. Health professionals have long debated the link between ADHD and diet; but only recently has the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) stepped in to evaluate the theory. In 2010, the European Union placed warning labels on food that contained six food dyes and the Food Standards Agency in Great Britain has asked manufacturers to phase out their use of the dyes. In the United States, the FDA is interested in studying Yellow No. 5, which can be found in processed macaroni-and-cheese mixes, some sports drinks, and high-sugar cereals, among other food additives.

Childhood exposure to toxins:
Poor living conditions with exposure to lead paint and rusted pipes may contribute to a short attention span and hyperactivity in kids. In a 2007 study by Michigan State University, kids who had ADHD had higher levels of lead in their blood. Elevated lead levels may make it harder for the brain to develop, thus making it hard for children to regulate their self control. Ensuring a healthy living environment, free from lead and harmful materials, may help kids lead a life free from ADHD symptoms.

Sometimes, staying free of harmful environmental factors can be difficult. But following a healthy diet and maintaining a safe home can contribute to healthy kids and possibly reduce the effects of ADHD.

Sources:

Mayo Clinic
CNN
Science Daily

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