I watched a PBS documentary titled The Medicated Child a couple of nights ago.  It made me want to reach into the TV and strangle some of the doctors who are pumping kids full of drugs.  I don’t doubt that some people are born with true chemical imbalances that require medication, but when we’ve got literally millions of children being diagnosed as bipolar or suffering from ADHD and put on drug therapy, something is very, very wrong.

If you have a Netflix account that includes streaming and an internet-enabled TV, you can find the documentary there and watch it on the big screen.  If not, you can watch it below.  You’ll hear the word “nutrition” mentioned only once, if memory serves.  Meanwhile, you’ll see kids consuming ice cream, cookies, battered corn dogs, and Gatorade.  No wonder they have brain issues.

Watching shows like this, I’m thankful I’ve learned so much about nutrition.  My daughter Sara is highly intelligent, but also bouncy and energetic.  Put her on a lousy diet, and I can easily imagine her behavior changing enough that some well-meaning teacher would tell us she’s hyperactive or suffering from ADD and may need medication. 

As Dr. Barry Sears once wrote, every time you eat, you’re drugging yourself.  I can’t help but think most of these kids are taking prescription drugs to offset the effects of the “drugs” they eat.

53 Responses to “The Medicated Child”
  1. DoctorSH says:

    Having ADD myself, I know the effects of diet can be substantial. My mind is much sharper and focused on a low carb diet. But you need to not only convince parents, but also find a way to get kids to change what they eat. Not an easy task!

    Don’t always blame the docs. Look at parents, teachers, and the ridiculous government nutritional recommendations first!

    I certainly blame the government’s low-fat diet campaign for contributing to this mess.

  2. Cathy says:

    What should we do with ADHD children until we figure out what is wrong with them? Life can be a nightmare for ADHD children and medication a lifesaver. As the mother of 2 such children, I’m tired of being blamed for my children’s condition. I’m a good parent; I discipline my children and feed them a wide variety of healthy foods. (Yes, there is some “fun” food in there (junk) but what child does not have a treat now and then?) I even gave them supplements and tried elimination diets. It didn’t work. I finally broke down and gave them prescription medication. Their lives improved 100% almost overnight. I’m just sorry the stigma against “medicating” my children kept me from getting them the help they needed. When we do find out what is causing ADHD (I wonder if it’s environmental?) we will investigate it thoroughly and take the kids off meds if possible. But until then, they will get their medication. They don’t function in a healthy way without it, just like I don’t function well without my diabetes medication, which by the way, I still need despite a no-sugar, low-carb diet. Our bodies are not perfect and diet (unfortunately) does not help everything.

    That’s why I acknowledged that some people are probably born with chemical imbalances and need medication. You’ve clearly tried the natural remedies. Unfortunately, the kids in the documentary were living on junk.

  3. Mary D says:

    My “kids” are all adults, but when my eldest began exhibiting sugar intolerance problems at age 5 or 6, I found a copy of Dr. Lendon Smith’s “Feed Your Kids Right”. Because of that book, my son was able to get through school without being subjected to Ritalin, etc. like some of his peers. Smith advocated keeping sugar and refined “food” (white flour, etc.) away from your kids and feeding them only unprocessed foods and cooking from scratch. It worked well for us – all three boys are still incredibly healthy and strong, even though, sadly, they have personally veered away from the healthy diets they had growing up.

    Have you read “Mad in America”? Robert Whitaker wrote this tremendous book about the history of mental illness treatment in America and goes into great detail about the treatment of ADHD in children. Really troubling reading, especially for me, with one grandson having been diagnosed as ADHD and working his way through treatment. I know his diet affects him – and any opportunity I get to feed him and his little sister, I feed him with good, unprocessed food. But I don’t preach to his parents – just try to set a good example.

    It’s all very troubling. Any advice? Any comment?

    When I see friends or family members suffering from ailments I believe are diet-related, I offer advice once. If they seem open to it and ask questions, I keep talking. Otherwise, I stop.

  4. Dave says:

    I watched the special on Netflix…it is SO SAD to see drugs pushed as the first option by doctors and not looking at diet.

    I’m afraid that’s how most doctors are trained to think.

  5. Sarah says:

    Geez, I’m not even a parent, I’m in high school, and this is hard for me to watch.

    Then you can imagine how those of with kids feel. Anyone who ever tries to give either of my daughters one of those awful drugs will have to step over my dead body to do it.

  6. Ailu says:

    Based on the children that I have encountered in my work, the ones that are on prescription drugs seem to be so because their parents feed them treats all day long as an “act of love” (but really it’s supplication), and then don’t want to “parent” the inevitable hyperactivity that ensues. I look forward to watching this documentary!

    The parents mean well, but they’re feeding these kids junk and not making the connection between diet and behavior.

  7. Ailu says:

    OMG. I just watched the documentary. I only have two words after watching it:


    My thoughts exactly.

  8. Tom,

    If you haven’t already read Robert Whitaker’s book “Anatomy of an Epidemic: Magic Bullets, Psychiatric Drugs, and the Astonishing Rise of Mental Illness in America,” I recommend it. I see that he’s got a blog, too –



    Pete B

    I haven’t read it, but I’ve heard of it.

  9. Lori says:

    Isn’t it an old joke that by adult standards, children are insane?

    Anyone with an interest in psychiatric medications must read Diabetes Update’s review of “Anatomy of an Epidemic: Magic Bullets, Psychiatric Drugs, and the Astonishing Rise of Mental Illness in America” by Robert Whitaker. A few commenters remarked that they knew people who had been helped with a whole foods diet.


    I just ordered the book.

  10. Lori says:

    As for treats, I don’t know about anybody else, but 1/2 a bottle of one of those vitamin-packed, 0-calorie drinks makes me depressed.

  11. I remember having a bit of a ‘discussion’ with my nutrition lecturer about something similar. He was telling us sugar wasn’t implicated in hyperactivity and adhd in children, it was the all due to the artificial colourings. I’m still not convinced, given the amount of sugar that is considered ‘normal’ nowadays. I’m sure colourings aren’t wonderful, but the colourings are usually wrapped around refined sugar.

    I’ve seen what happens when my girls consume sugar. You can’t tell me it doesn’t produce hyperactivity and lack of focus, at least temporarily.

  12. Katy says:

    Twelve years ago, my then 6 year-old grandson had a difficult time sitting and working in the classroom. His teacher insisted that he be drugged, and my daughter took him to the doctor to be evaluated. She absolutely did not want him on any such medication. The doctor asked her if he could sit through a movie or video (yes), and if she had any discipline problems with him (no). The doctor thankfully concluded that the problem was with the teacher and her methods in the classroom. Boring, in a word. He advised that all of the children in this class should have been getting up and moving about much more frequently. He’s had his ups and downs over the years, totally thriving under teachers who inspired him and understood his need to be needed on the one hand, while simply marking his time with those who had the “my way or the highway” attitude. He does have issues with people who are disrespectful to him; in fact, he has challenged teachers, asking them point blank, “Why are you so rude? Why are you screaming? I’m not yelling at you. I’m not being disrespectful to you.” Last year he wrote a paper in a language arts class entitled, “Why I Hate My English Teacher,” and got an “A” on it. It caused the teacher to think. And he’ll be graduating in June. I think it’s tragic that so many adults think that any nonconforming behavior in children is something to be suppressed with drugs.

  13. nonegiven says:

    I cannot tell you how many bipolar adults I know of that have to eat low carb to stabilize their moods, even on the meds.

  14. Karen says:

    I was concerned for a couple of years when my younger daughter entered into a private preschool. I was beginning to be concerned that she was autistic some days, ADHD on other days, and yet OCD on others. By the time she was in her last year at her preschool, I had discovered my own zero carb path and was intensely researching how zero carb diets are used therapeutically on children with epilepsy and children with other imbalances like ADHD were successfully being treated with low carb diets. I started morphing both my girl’s diets into low carb, with zero carbs at breakfast and lunch. The carbs they eat come at dinner only. I started giving them as much saturated fat as I could in those two meals and I didn’t say a word to my daughter’s preschool teacher. Two weeks into the transition, my daughter’s preschool teacher came to me after school, wide-eyed and open-mouthed. Suddenly, according to her, my daughter was attentive, she was engaging and asking questions and listening to the answers! She didn’t just get up and walk off anymore to go explore some other classroom.

    So I continue with the plan to this day. Eggs, bacon, meats for breakfast and lunch, with lots of butter. For dinner, I let them pick but there has to be meat in the meal. For dessert, they can pick as well. After dessert it’s like flipping a switch. They can sometimes look and sound like they’re flying off the walls. But they’re at home and not at school. I can handle it. I wouldn’t expect a teacher with 24 students to be able to handle it all day long.

    Naturally, the USDA wants schools to cut even more saturated fat from the meals and the milk. Yeah, that’s going to produce some interesting results.

  15. Laurie says:

    I saw this a few years ago BT (before Taubes) and BF (before Fat Head). I thought it was pretty scary. I think differently about it now after all that I’ve read since and I think it’s even more devastatingly sad and I can’t imagine what it’s like for those children and their concerned, well-intentioned parents. If a child eats three meals and 2 snacks a day, that’s 1825 times per year to influence them for good or ill with food and proper nutrition. I’m not knocking Western medicine and psychiatry, but in some instances I would be willing to bet that giving a growing child ‘Cocoa Puffs’ with skim milk and powerful anti-psychotics is like trying to swat a single mosquito with a rocket launcher.

    Diet may not always be the cure, but I’m willing to bet many if not most of these kids could’ve avoided being diagnosed as ADD or bipolar if only they’d been fed more nutritious food from early on.

  16. Jesrad says:

    Watching this I can’t help but wonder, as overweight parent after overweight parent is shown with their “disordered” kid: how many children are labelled “hyperactive” merely because their caretakers (parents, but also teachers) are really “underactive” from having decreased energy levels from their high-carb diet and unable to cope with otherwise normal kids ?

    That was one of the first things I noticed. Some of the parents looked like walking, talking cases of insulin resistance.

  17. MedPhyzz says:

    In a similar vein, a film that makes me hoping mad is ‘First Do No Harm’ with Meryl Streep about Charlie Abrahams who had epilepsy. Doctors kept giving him drugs to treat him and his parents had to fight to allow him to try the ketogenic diet. It worked very well and now the ketogenic diet is an accepted way to treat epilepsy that drugs can’t help, and even the Atkins diet is being suggested for adult epileptics. I suspect drugs are always the first choice though, and the ketogenic diet is a last resort. As a family member is an epileptic (and so is my best friend) I have done a lot of reading (medical papers, not ‘health’ magazines!) about the ketogenic diet. Some scientists suggest that ketones are protective of the brain, even after injury. It’s sad that research into high fat diets has been impeded by the millions of people who think that fat is harmful… all starting with Keys.

    Indeed. Dietary change is rarely suggested as the first course of action.

  18. The link I posted somehow dropped the “l” at that end. Sorry.


    Here’s a quote from his post “Speaking at MGH Grand Rounds, and More” on
    Jan 21, 2011 –

    … the host Meghna Chakrabarti begins to read a statement made by one of the lead investigators of the NIMH’s long-term study of treatment for ADHD, known as the Multisite Multimodal Treatment study. Here is the full statement from William Pelham, which the host began to read:

    “We had thought that children medicated longer would have better outcomes. That didn’t happen to be the case. There were no beneficial effects, none. In the short term, [medications] will help the child behave better, in the long run it won’t. And that information should be made very clear to parents.”

    Now readers need to know the backdrop to this trial to understand the importance of this finding. The prescribing of stimulants to children began in the 1970s, and then really took off in the 1980s. Numerous studies found that over the short-term, medications diminished “motoric overactivity, impulsivity and inattentiveness” in classroom settings. Thus they were seen as effective for treating ADHD. But by the early 1990s, there was no evidence that the drugs were benefitting the children long-term. As the 1994 edition of the American Psychiatric Association’s Textbook of Psychiatry admitted, “Stimulants do not produce lasting improvements in aggressivity, conduct disorder, criminality, education achievement, job functioning, marital relationships, or long-term adjustment.”

    The NIMH launched its MTA trial, which it touted as the “first major clinical trial” the institute had ever conducted of a “childhood mental disorder,” in order to more properly assess whether there was a long-term benefit. And what it found was that by the end of three years, “medication use was a significant marker not of beneficial outcome, but of deterioration.” By the end of six years, the findings remained the same. Medication use was associated with worse hyperactivity-impulsivity and oppositional defiant disorder symptoms,” and, if you look closely at the data, with greater “overall functional impairment.” Hence, Pelham’s conclusion that they found that medications provided no long-term benefit, none.

    As noted in the documentary, many of these drugs weren’t tested on kids, and when clinical trials were conducted, the outcomes weren’t positive.

  19. Cheryl Jansen says:

    I know I would have been medicated as a child if I were in school now. I finished everything early, and then was bored and couldn’t be still (though a teacher or 2 figured it out and gave me more to do). Then they couldn’t say anything because I got it all right, and got very good grades. now even with good grades they’d have drugged me into being average, and compliant in class!

    Same here. My report cards (Mom saved them) noted how much time I spent staring out the window, apparently not listening. They also noted that if the teacher asked me a question, I gave the correct answer. I was staring out the window thinking something like, “Move on, already.”

  20. Tracee says:

    Thanks for posting this documentary, I look forward to watching it. This is a topic near and dear to me. I have a few interesting links compiled on this subject (almost all from medical journals):

    That’s a nice list of resources. Thanks.

  21. Korey says:

    The four-year-old’s lunch consists of corn dogs, Goldfish, cookies, and Gatorade. The problem might be painfully obvious….

    Ironically, their doctor is named Dr. Bacon.

    When I saw that lunch, I was yelling at my TV screen.

  22. damaged justice says:

    I may not have ever been fat or obviously sick, but I had a hellacious childhood and adolescence. Even accounting for outside problems and my own issues, I look back now and am totally convinced that I was medicating myself to numb the emotional pain. I’d come home, sit down and go through half a loaf of bread making toast slathered with butter and cinnamon sugar — maybe half a box of high sugar cereal, one bowl at a time, even after the first had already shredded the roof of my mouth. But my favorite in hindsight is a concoction of my own devising that involved half a glass of instant hot chocolate mix, topped with the same amount of non-dairy creamer, with just enough hot water added to turn it into a half-mixed sludge that I would then shovel down with a spoon. All this was at its worst in junior high and high school, but after I left that toxic environment and started to enjoy life, I was abusing sugar and grains a lot less and eating more variety of meat and veggies (thank you Indian cuisine!). Still, it wasn’t until I hit 40 and went the paleo route that my moods seem to have finally truly stabilized. I get angry less often, when I do it’s far quicker to pass, and I don’t feel like I’m constantly trying and failing to climb out of a pit of low-grade chronic despair. I’m sure you’ve already got her on your list, but anyone who doesn’t should be reading Emily Deans’ Evolutionary Psychiatry — she’s my favorite new paleo blogger, right up there with Hyperlipid Peter for making the most hardcore science into a fun and fascinating discussion, and her posts have been a key element helping me look back in hindsight and understand just what I was doing to myself, and why.

    I was never particularly prone to depression, but when I was eating a lot of low-fat vegetarian garbage, that’s when I had depressions. The right diet is a great mood stabilizer.

  23. Tracee says:

    I watched that documentary, that is so disturbing!!!

  24. To be fair to the medical profession, many of the clients are the ones that demand the ‘quick fix’ of a tablet of some kind. They want pills to keep happy, sleep, have energy, lose weight, cure all manner of aches and pains – and some people get really upset if they go to the doc and don’t get a script for something. Even if they turn up with a virus.

    These people want their issue fixed NOW, not at some distant point in the future especially if it involves taking some ownership of the situation and making long term lifestyle changes. That takes too much effort.

    Of course the flip side is many that DO want to try lifestyle changes struggle to find the resources or support to do so. It’s not easy to take the road less travelled.

    “Do not fear to be eccentric in opinion, for every opinion now accepted was once eccentric.”
    – Bertrand Russell

    I’m sure that’s true too. But it would’ve been nice to hear the “nutrition” more than once in the entire documentary. I’m sure many parents would give it a try before putting their kids on drugs.

  25. Maria Minno says:

    One problem is that parents and doctors don’t realize what good nutrition really is. If you go by the USDA guidelines you’ll get sick. People generally don’t know what good fats are (they think “olive oil” instead of “butter!”), how much children need (I mean, they really need a LOT!), and what supplements to choose (e.g., nothing can compare with the fermented cod liver oil/ butter oil blend from Blue Ice). There is so much bad information out there. I’m glad there is the Weston A. Price Foundation’s excellent journal, website, and conferences around the country to provide information that is accurate and useful. It has proven itself reliable and accurate and practical over and over again to me and my family and many of my friends.

    That’s why I believe much of the blame lies with the USDA and all the other lipophobes in authority. The last thing that would occur to most parents and doctors is that the kids aren’t eating enough natural saturated fats.

  26. Auntie M says:

    As a teacher, I get really tired of bearing blame for everything related to education and children. Trust me, I’m surrounded by children all day long. I know what “normal” looks like. I can peg a student diagnosed with ADHD at a hundred paces, as can most teachers I know. Truthfully, I feel like many of them could be fixed or at least see some improvement with changes in diet, not that I’m allowed to say that.

    Most teachers are good people with good intentions, and we want students to be able to learn. I’ve seen students for whom medication was a miracle, and others who saw little benefit or became like zombies. I would venture that 95% of them would benefit in some way from dietary changes like GAPs, SCD, Feingold, and/or gluten/dairy/sugar-free diets. Most of the students eat “carbage” all the time, and they have starving brains. It’s tough to teach students like that, and even tougher when I’m personally blamed for their inability to learn. I’m held solely responsible for any and all failures in my classroom. Teachers are the current scapegoats for all that’s wrong with education. It’s downright depressing.

    I can tell that many of my students need an intervention of some sort to help them become better learners. Legally speaking, though, I can’t suggest or force a parent to do anything. We’ve been told that if someone in the school suggests medication or testing to a parent, the school district legally has to pay for such testing and/or medication because it was our idea. If we have a student who takes medication, and that student obviously hasn’t taken it, we’re not even supposed to say, “Did you take your medication?” We’re supposed to ask him/her if he or she needs to go see the nurse. It’s sticky. If some teacher or school has tried to tell you that you “have to” medicate your child, get a lawyer.

    The really irritating thing is the parents who know their student has behavior problems, but do absolutely nothing because they don’t want to medicate. Doing nothing to help the child is as much child abuse as overmedicating. I think some of them just don’t know what to do, and are paralyzed.

    I would love to suggest dietary changes to parents, but I can’t. I think some of the parents would welcome that information, but my hands are tied. Truthfully, many of them wouldn’t want or perhaps be able to change their child’s diet so radically. My own sister has ignored my suggestions to change her daughter’s diet, because it would be “too hard”. Her daughter’s therapist, by the way, just suggested the same gluten/dairy/sugar-free diet that I’ve been suggesting for years. That’s at least an encouraging sign that some people are taking diet more seriously.

    Something like GAPs pretty much requires that everyone in the house go on it, so you can clear your house of noncompliant items. Most people aren’t willing to change their lives to that extent, and many don’t believe that it will make a difference. They’re brainwashed into the idea that saturated fat is bad, whole grains are good, and food has no effect on behavior.

    Sorry for the rant. The “blame the schools” thing always irritates me.

    I don’t blame the teachers. My mom and sister were both teachers, so I have a sense of what you’re going through. Teachers aren’t supposed to be substitute parents.

  27. Auntie M says:

    Sorry, Tom. I wasn’t saying that YOU blame the teachers. Lots of other people blame the schools and teachers, and it bothers me that parents (and students, in certain cases) hold little accountability in our current system and in the public eye.

    No offense taken here. Eric Oliver pointed out in our interview that people want to dump all these non-academic responsibilities on schools, such as turning them into diet centers, and it’s backfiring. I totally agree.

  28. Bruce says:

    Part of the problem, I think, is the amount of ingredients that are GRAS that are allowed to be in a lot of the foods we eat. Even if you are trying to eat healthy, the ingredient list grows. HFCS is one, as it is included in many things that do not need to be sweet. But, I noticed the other day, that the Emerald Nuts cashews and the deluxe mixed nuts I usually buy now contain; “nuts (of course) oil (for frying) and salt”. But now they also contain “Natural Flavors” What the f%&@??? I wrote an email to Emerald to inquire why that ingredient was included. The reply came back that if I was unhappy with the product, to give them my home address and they would mail me a coupon for replacement. So, no more Emerald for me.

    It’s not about eating crap, it’s the amount of crap that we eat if we do not read labels.

    That’s we buy nuts at Costco. The ingredients are nuts and salt.

  29. Ron_Mocci says:

    WOW Korey, I said the same thing you said. this is what I said : I’m so sick of this kind shit , It really hurts my heart ! 10 min. into the movie there is a 4 year thats needs lots of cuz of meds , it shows the mom giving her kid ( corn dogs and a soda ) The soda is 2 sev. thats 28 grs x 2 =56 grs sugar WTF now the corn dogs = 0 Vits and no mins ! the kid needs real food and good fats ! Please open your eyes and see the USAD is making us all sick !
    than : Cuz I made mistake : sorry .. needs lots of food …

    The corn dogs are also full of refined carbs and probably fried in some nasty vegetable oil.

  30. Pierce says:

    I was fortunate enough to have a great pediatrician. He always advised eating lots of real foods as a better alternative to taking vitamins. When my kindergarten teacher suggested I had ADD that should be treated, his response was “Here’s my number… tell her to call me and I will explain a few things.”

    She never said anything again, and I am grateful.

    I’m not sure what these teachers expect though. When I was a kid, our whole neighborhood would stay out in the pool or our backyards until bedtime every in the summer. Then Labor Day rolls around, and we were all stuffed in classrooms reading poorly rhyming and insultingly stupid books about noisy mice. How did they expect us to react?

    You were lucky to have such a good pediatrician.

  31. Nick S says:

    On top of your (accurate) observation that diet is a smarter first fix to try for ADHD than drugs, there’s also the fact that doctors will almost universally ignore behavioral therapy. When I was diagnosed with adult ADHD, I was told that behavior modification was time consuming, hard, and ineffective.

    After suffering through a few months of the medication, I got fed up with the Adderall roller-coaster and went out looking for alternatives. If you’ve never tried Adderall, don’t. Taking it daily is a nightmarish existence unless you can afford the staggeringly expensive slow-release caps; my insurance wouldn’t pay.

    A few books later (all of which together costing less than one month of Adderall) I found that I had the tools to bring my ADHD under control. I am not cured, but I am hugely improved, and no longer need medication. All it took was a low-carb diet and truly simple behavioral changes. Now that I know it, I am disgusted by the crudeness and carelessness of meds-first treatment plans.

    I’m glad you were able to find a non-drug method of handling it.

  32. Hilary Kyro says:

    “Hot medicine! Hot medicine! Hot Medicine!”
    Corndog kid is the cornerstone of the economy.
    As noted by Jesred and Tom; the tubby popcorn parents have high insulin resistance and low point of purchase sales resistance. SeeWantCandy. -Label buyers.
    Dr. Bacon is a smooth salesman; saying no would feel like you’re neglecting the child’s morbid juvenile mania. Saying yes is suicide, but at least you tried everything.
    Why don’t these quacks take their own medicine and donate their bodies to science?
    Is this cutting-edge, heroic pediatrics or The Heart of Darkness? The horror, the horror…
    Fatheads; let’s keep spreading the good news like butter!

    Specifically, let’s spread the news like Kerry Gold butter.

  33. Ekon says:

    OT: Behold the glorious effects of lipophobia and saltophobia, united at last by the USDA:


    “Healthy” food = Snacking kids.

    Bingo. They’ll skip the tasteless food and fill up on junk later.

  34. First off – I have to say that none of the psychiatrists to whom I might send my kids would even think of medication without considering many options and the whole picture. Childhood ADHD is a multifactorial issue with many, many causes and multiple solutions, behavioral therapy ALWAYS important (in children and adults) – but, frankly, medications can be miraculous. I’m an adult psychiatrist but I’ve seen it more than once in kids of my patients, and one of my dear colleagues is a child psychiatrist who works her butt off trying to help troubled kids navigate a confusing world. (And I have to say, Whittiker’s book has a somewhat bizarre premise – Dr. Carlat who has made his career going against “Big Pharma” and publishes the fantastic Carlat Report has a review here: http://carlatpsychiatry.blogspot.com/2011/01/anatomy-of-epidemic-carlat-take-part-2.html

    But that is beside the point – I believe that diet has a lot to do with ADHD. I’ve blogged about it extensively, and the latest post discusses a recent (Feb 2011), well done, randomized controlled trial of a mostly paleo+ rice diet that improved ADHD and oppositional defiant symptoms in 60% of the patients, whose symptoms worsened when they returned to the “healthy” control diet.


    The psychiatrists and teachers are not the enemy – mostly.

    Glad to know you look to diet as a potential cause. Unfortunately, diet was only mentioned once (almost as a throwaway) in the documentary, and was never investigated as a possible cause with the people in my extended family who were diagnosed as bipolar or ADD.

  35. Jan says:

    @Bruce – “Natural flavors” or “flavorings” is a popular industry euphemism for the ever popular Monosodium Glutamate, or MSG. I won’t tough the stuff with a 10-foot pole – it gives me horrible headaches.

  36. ADD, ADHD, schizophrenia & other brain function disregulations are predominantly caused by dietary deficiencies of good, organic, CIS configured omega 6 linoleic acid, omega 3 alpha linolenic acid, saturated fats & cholesterols from animal proteins, and the related consumption of toxic, oxidized TRANS configured omega 6 linoleic acid polyunsaturated vegetable oils in most all processed & fast foods which are not the proper form for physiological & metabolic processes and which disrupt neurological signalling & brain function.

    “The entire spectrum of autoimmune disorders, endocrine imbalances, gastrointestinal disturbances cardiovascular difficulties and central nervous system involvement are all rivoted in derangement of fatty acid metabolism.”

    “The use of trans fats literally shuts down the fatty acid metabolism. The synthesis of prostaglandins-local hormones that control all cell to cell interactions within the body-are completely dependent upon the ingestion of high quality, unaltered fatty acids. The body requires specific fatty acids to create gastrointestinal integrity, bilipid membranes, hormones, neurohormones, prostaglandins and immune modulators all derived from fatty acids and these fats must be supplied and trans fats avoided if modulation of the faulty metabolism is to be achieved.”

    See Patricia Kane, Ph.D. article, Essential Fatty Acids, Lorenzo’s Oil and Beyond https://www.explorepub.com/samlple-articles/217-essential-fatty-acids-lorenzos-oil-and-beyond-.html

    ADD, ADHD and even schizophrenia & other brain function disregulations have been resolved & mediated in as little as 2 weeks by:

    1. Stopping ALL intakes of oxidized, inflammatory TRANS configured omega 6 linoleic acid polyunsaturated vegetable oils & all processed & fast foods,

    2. Supplementing the diet with good, UN-adulterated, organic CIS configured omega 6 linoleic acids found in organic, cold pressed Evening Primrose, sunflower & safflower oils, and omega 3 alpha linolenic acids found in flax & fish oils & reintroducing into the diet the good, organic, grass fed animal proteins & saturated fats & cholesterols in them, and

    3. Restricting intakes of all carbohydrates to a level equal to, or even less than, 50 or 60 grams maximum per day which yields a total calorie intake by carbs of only 200 to 300 calories per day.

    Utilizing this 3 step approach can produce amazing results quickly. If you have any doubts & require further proof, start by trying just this one simple thing: daily cod liver oil.
    Certified nutrition educator Misty Humphrey on ADD & ADHD child behavior & cod liver oil, http://twaud.io/q88w Podcast here: http://bit.ly/gotdO6

    Thank you for the links.

  37. Isabel says:

    It makes me wonder if our babies aren’t getting enough healthy fat before the age of 1? Most people are now avoiding eggs the first year due to possible allergies, but wouldn’t that be the healthiest way to give it to them?

    And what kind of fat is in infant formula?

    OMG! I just looked it up!

    “D Nonfat Milk, Lactose, High Oleic Safflower Oil, Soy Oil, Coconut Oil, Whey Protein Concentrate, Less than 2% of: C. Cohnii Oil, M. Alpina Oil, Potassium Citrate, Calcium Carbonate, Ascorbic Acid, Potassium Chloride, Choline Bitartrate, Magnesium Chloride, Choline Chloride, Ferrous Sulfate, Ascorbyl Palmitate, Taurine, M-Inositol, Alpha Tocopheryl Acetate, L-Carnitine, Mixed Tocopherols, Sodium Chloride, Zinc Sulfate, Niacinamide, Calcium Pantothenate, Cupric Sulfate, Vitamin A Palmitate, Thiamine Chloride Hydrochloride, Riboflavin, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride, Beta-Carotene, Folic Acid, Manganese Sulfate, Phylloquinone, Biotin, Sodium Selenate, Vitamin D3, Cyanocobalamin and Nucleotides (Adenosine5 -Monophosphate, Cytidine 5-Monophosphate, Disodium Guanosine 5-Monophosphate, Disodium Uridine 5-Monophosphate)”

    Is this what we are feeding our babies in their first year when their brains are growing so fast?

    And then we are told to avoid eggs, and get them off whole milk as soon as you can…

    Ok, next baby will be strictly breast-fed.

    Sure some kids do just fine on formula, but maybe some kids are more susceptible? I’ve always read that autism and other behavioral issues are increasing exponentially, especially among the well educated and more affluent communities. Is thise because they have better access to health care, leading to more diagnosis? Or is it because these families are more likely to follow a low-fat, high carb diet? Also, what about diet during pregnancy? So many questions…

    Weston A. Price wrote about diet and pregnancy in Nutrition and Physical Degeneration. Our girls were breast-fed for a year, with bits of solid foods introduced around six months. Fortunately, my older daughter’s favorite baby food was the pureed lamb.

  38. I forgot to include these links in my previous post in the graph about how seriously toxic trans fats are & how & why they cause cancers & brain disregulations.

    EFA researcher-educator Paul Beatty on the REAL cause of breast & prostate cancer, audio clip http://twaud.io/q8jn Short 7 minute Video here http://bit.ly/gbfqlI

    The other related Paul Beatty videos are good too, click on a few of those to learn more about omega 6 & 3 oils.

  39. cosmic1 says:

    Tom, I am loving your blogs. Also, I bought Fathead and it’s great!

    Thinking back when I was a child – no one was on medication and we were all pretty high energy. Going outside at recess helped us release our pent up energy – as did gym classes. Plus, after we got home, we stayed outside as long as possible.

    In today’s world, we would have all probably been diagnosed with ADHD. The father was right when he said that 3 year olds are not supposed to have impulse control (paraphrasing). I’ve no doubt that the diets have had an impact on behavior, but medication should be a last resort.

    Learning how to behave in public is something that gets taught at home first and gets reinforced by other adults. The whole ‘epidemic’ just puzzles me. I am fearful as to what will happen to these children as they get older – what are all those drugs doing to them?

    I’m afraid the drugs will just cause other problems when they’re older.

  40. Katy says:

    Forgive the overgeneralization here, but medicated children, if other avenues of relief are not employed, often become self-medicated adults (alcohol, illegal and legal drugs, etc.).

  41. Ellen says:

    I’m with Cathy here, as the (Primal-eating) mother of two kids with ADHD. I’m beyond tired of getting blamed by the blogosphere for (a) “causing” it via a poor diet or bad parenting, (b) asserting that ADHD exists at all (instead of being just “kids with high spirits” or, again, kids who are poorly disciplined), and/or (c) medicating our kids, which we decided to do after extensive research.

    This is third-generation ADHD, by the way — heritability of the disorder is extremely high (76%, says Medscape, which rivals heritability of height!). I don’t disagree that diet may be a factor for some children, but genetics is clearly a major component of ADHD. (And no, the previous two generations of their father’s family didn’t eat the modern SAD either.)

    And Katy, I’m afraid that studies seem to show the opposite of your hypothesis: the kids with ADHD who were *not* medicated are the ones who self-medicate in adolescence and adulthood with caffeine, nicotine, alcohol, heroin, and cocaine. That’s a major reason we chose to medicate.

    You can go back through history and find people with chemical imbalances that caused emotional or behavioral problems, which is why I don’t think it’s all about the diet in every case. But I do believe the huge rise in cases over the past generation is largely about diet.

  42. Stargazey says:

    ADHD is associated with many genes including a single nucleotide polymorphism of latrophilin 3 gene, copy number variations of several genes on Chromosome 16, the 7-repeat form of the D4D dopamine receptor, a dopamine transporter polymorphism and a norephinephrine transporter polymorphism.

    Perhaps behavior modification, a good diet and excellent parenting could compensate for these genetic differences in somes cases. However, when a child is severely affected, sometimes a pharmacological approach is required. Psychostimulants cannot cure children with ADHD, but these drugs can make their symptoms manageable. This in turn gives them a reasonable chance at success in school, at work and in their social relationships.

    I’m sure that’s true. But of course, diet affects gene expression. So while I don’t believe all cases of ADHD can be prevented or cured with the proper diet, I definitely believe bad nutrition is responsible for the rising number of cases.

  43. Robin says:

    “Let food be thy medicine”
    Words to live by.
    My husband has ADHD and although it is not 100% cured, he is much more tolerable A) off meds and B)eating the diet I give him. His mother is a diabetic, his father has hypertension(and I beleive “metabolic syndrome”), and they think I’m crazy for what I feed him and my child. I’m fat but have no metabolic conditions, I wish they’d think about that. (But they attribute it to age and genetics they should look at my “genetics”)

    I just wish some people could wake up.

    I have the same wish.

  44. gollum says:

    One hypothesis I never got around to write up (so you heard it here first) –

    I noted the chemical similarity of ketone bodies (that the body runs on on low carb) to a neuro transmitter, I would have to look it up but I think it was GHB, gamma-hydroxy-butyric acid. It is also used as a sleep inducer, and popular as an illegal recreational drug (“liquid extasy”).

    Further speculation was about lithium and its “stabilizing” effect on “bipolar disorder”. Why should a simple alkali metal stabilize moods? No one knows. And with the intense flash of goodness I got from entering ketosis, I hypothesized that the lithium forms an unknown compound/salt with fatty acids/ketone bodies/GHB. Compound stays in your tissue in metastable equilibrium and acts like a buffer. This means the highs are dulled, and the lows are helped a bit.

    Why lithium? Maybe only lithium, which is quite aggressive, can form a compound that has the right semi-stability (one would wonder why Na and K do not work – but these are ubiquituous in our body).

    There are all sorts of fascinating connections (I fear I had a “flash” at that time). For instance, light therapy is supposed to help with depression, but it involves waking the patient as early as possible. It is also known that sleep deprivation will “help” somewhat against depression (at least in the short term). The idea is that these people experience low blood sugar, ketones plus stress hormones.

    All good thoughts.

  45. Bonnie says:

    I have inattentive ADD, and a primal diet hasn’t helped it at all unfortunately. My diet as a child was 100x better than your average kid, too. Some of our brains are just different – I take after my father in so many ways, and we both struggle with many of the things normal people find easy.

    I’m not medicated currently, but thinking seriously about trying it again. I’m trying to live the life I want, and failing because of my lack of ability to organize myself and follow through tasks…

    That’s right; diet doesn’t explain all the cases of ADD. But I think it has something to with the rise in cases.

  46. Lisa says:

    I watched “Fat Head” out of pure curiosity(having already seen Super Size Me) and walked away a Fan. Your thoughts mirror alot of my own. I found your blog and am currently in the middle of reading through your postings when I came across this one. I also saw a documentary on PBS a while ago(I am pretty sure it is the same one) and remember crying for these kids and being so angry that these parents can treat their children this way! And that these so called Doctors see no problem prescribing mind altering drugs to children whose brains are not even fully developed. It’s lunacy. There was one boy who has permanent ticks because of all the crap meds they put him on, it broke my heart. All because he couldn’t concentrate in school. I WISH people were smarter, that common sense would prevail. Thank you SO much for being a voice of REASON. And I look forward to reading more of what you have to say.

  47. Lisa says:

    I wanted to clarify that I saw “Super Size Me”and WAS NOT a fan of it. LOL

  48. Gabrielle says:

    Have you ever seen “Making a Killing”? (I believe you can still watch the full video at http://www.cchr.org/videos/making-a-killing.html.) It’s an excellent documentary i highly recommend if you want to learn where all this mess with psych drugs came from and how government associations like the FDA are, once again, in it for themselves rather than the people.

    I just bookmarked it and will try to watch later in the week. Thanks for the link.

  49. Adrienne says:

    My husband of over 40 years has ADD. So do my two sons. When he grew up, he lived on a farm and ate food grown on the farm–beef, pork, whole milk from a resident Jersey cow, butter, garden vegetables. He has always been thin and active. I won’t go into all the details of his life but I will say that we have been strict low carb for 6 months now. He has reached his goal weight (I have not). He takes Ritalin and has taken Ritalin for 20 years. I asked him today what was his attention span on low carb and how did it affect his ADD. He said that when he takes a Ritalin holiday (as he does most weekends), he still is unable to focus, has trouble talking and it takes him MUCH longer to complete his sudoku puzzles (he does ultra screaming black belt sudoku). Physically, he feels fine, energetic and alert. ADHD does have a genetic component and can be passed from parents to children. Our schooling methods are horrible for these kids. We raised our boys with grass fed beef we grew ourselves, home grown turkey, rabbit, a 1/4 acre organic garden but this did not seem to have the effect that you would think. We used Feingold when that method became known. But, in the end, it was Ritalin that enabled them both to graduate from university (one with a master’s degree). My husband had to struggle when he graduated from university–everything took twice as long or more for this very intelligent man. Please do not dismiss those who truly struggle with ADD or ADHD every single day. Sometimes medication helps in being able to focus all day during a workday and getting a job done. And when my husband takes his Ritalin, I can have a conversation with him while eating our hangar steak, mashed cauliflower, and strawberries with whipping cream. A prominent psychiatrist, who himself has ADD, wrote that ADD people are the hunters in a farmer’s world. The world they need no longer exists. Yes, I do believe that ADD is overdiagnosed by parents who don’t know how to train children but, remember, the American continent attracted the “hunter” immigrants from other parts of the world when the country was new and unexplored. That alone ensured that Americans have a LOT of ADD/hunter genes in the population that persist down to this day. Stargazey above made a serious comment and I felt that your comment was a little bit snappish so this is why I felt I needed to respond. I am part of the low carb choir but I have also lived with ADD humans for 45 years.

  50. Leanna says:

    haha….. dr. bacon.

    ..although humorous, this entire thing makes me sick! i have an 8 month old, and the first time any doctor/teacher/anyone tells me my child needs medicated–i will say a few pleasant words, pick her up, and walk away… and then we will go eat some steak.

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