Can food pesticides cause ADHD in children? In light of many new studies on attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD, this is a question that many parents have now begun to ask themselves, and while researchers are quick to admit that food pesticides have not been proven to be a direct causal agent for ADHD, many of these pesticides, it seems, can worsen the behavioral symptoms associated with the disorder. In this article we will take a closer look at food pesticides and ADHD, and provide some tips on how parents can better protect their ADHD children from some of the pesticides’ harmful effects.
Food Pesticides and ADHD
Researchers have known for years now that many of the pesticides used by farmers in growing our nation’s food supply can have adverse effects on people, and in a recent study they have now shown that exposure to at least one of these pesticide groups can worsen behavioral problems in ADHD children.
In that study, researchers looked at the effects of organophosphates—a very common group of food pesticides—on over 1000 children ages 7-14. What they found was that most of the children with very high levels of organophosphates in their urine were either previously diagnosed with ADHD or consistently demonstrated some of the problem behavior associated with the disorder. This, according to the authors of that study, does not necessarily suggest that organophosphates can directly lead to ADHD, but it does suggest that these pesticides can exacerbate the disorder’s symptoms.
ADHD is a brain disorder that involves several systems of neurotransmitters in the brain, which are essentially the brain’s chemical messengers. What researchers found through this study was that organophosphates have the tendency to interfere with and impair these systems. While this does not show a causal link between organophosphates and ADHD, it does mean that in children who are already predisposed genetically to the development of ADHD, ingesting organophosphates, especially in high levels, can negatively affect these neurotransmitters and trigger the symptoms of ADHD and the resultant problem behavior.
If you are a parent of an ADHD child, these facts and statistics may sound scary or alarming, but that doesn’t mean you should completely banish fruits and vegetables from your ADHD child’s diet. In fact, most doctors recommend that ADHD children get plenty of fruits and vegetables daily as a way to help manage their ADHD symptoms. What you should do as a parent, however, and what every other parent should do as well, is limit the amount of pesticides your child is exposed to, which, surprisingly, may be easier than you think.
How to Limit Pesticide Exposure in ADHD Children
There are many steps parents can take to limit an ADHD child’s exposure to potentially harmful pesticides, including:
- Buy organic. Organic fruits and vegetables are those that are grown using little or no chemical pesticides. Parents can usually find organic produce at their local grocery store or Farmer’s market, and while it does tend to be a bit more expensive than regularly grown produce, experts say the extra cost is worth it when raising an ADHD child.
- Know the foods that are high in pesticides. Parents should avoid non-organic fruits and vegetables that are notorious for containing heavy amounts of pesticides, including apples, peaches, lettuce and spinach
- Thoroughly wash and scrub produce. All produce should be scrubbed and washed before serving it to your family, which is much different than just briefly holding it under the kitchen faucet.
- Peel off the outer layer. Peeling the outer layer off of certain fruits and vegetables, including apples, onions and peaches, can significantly limit pesticide exposure.
- Grow your own fruits and vegetables. If you want to be certain your produce is 100% pesticide-free, experts say you should grow your own produce in a backyard garden.
Parents of ADHD children who try to completely eliminate a child’s exposure to potentially harmful pesticides will usually find the task next to impossible, but by implementing the techniques and strategies mentioned above, they can usually limit that exposure significantly, which can ultimately prove very beneficial in managing their ADHD child’s symptoms and behavior.