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The effects of elimination and supplementation diets on symptoms of ADHD

Theme: CLAHRC - Mental Health & Dementia
Status: Complete

This work was led by members of the Peninisula Cerebra Research Unit for Childhood Disability Research (PenCRU).


There is considerable interest in the use of complementary therapies for the condition among parents of children with Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). The charity Cerebra commissioned a team at Peninsula Medical School to carry out a scoping report describing studies which have been published evaluating the efficacy and safety of complementary and alternative medicines for children with ADHD. The aim was to guide decisions about fruitful directions for further work.


A systematic search for studies using multiple sources was conducted in collaboration with the PenCLAHRC Evidence Synthesis Team. We identified 269 studies evaluating the effectiveness of a wide range of complementary therapies in children with ADHD.

The majority of identified studies were published in the last decade, and in English. Much of the accumulated evidence involves small samples and less than a third were randomised controlled trials. There are several systematic reviews, notably Cochrane Reviews on meditation and homeopathy with two other Cochrane Reviews on acupuncture and fatty acid supplementation in preparation. There is also a sizeable literature on biofeedback and dietary modifications. Other areas with a reasonable amount of literature include relaxation and herbal medicines, albeit written in Chinese.

A prioritisation process was conducted with parents in the PenCRU Family Faculty. We shortlisted those interventions for which evidence is available, considered which of these may potentially be beneficial or harmful, and sought the views of parents in our Family Faculty. From this we prioritised ‘elimination and supplementation diets’, where certain foods are omitted from the diets of children and young people with ADHD in the belief this will reduce symptoms. Appraisal of this literature will better inform families about whether to use these approaches.

Related outputs

Elimination diets for ADHD

Eliminating aspartame for ADHD

Omega 3 supplements for ADHD

Further information

For more information, view the scoping report.

To discuss this further, please contact Chris Morris via email.

Others Involved

Sarah Bailey, Tamsin Newlove-Delgado