“Best treatment for ADHD: Healthy diet”
This is the headline from John Rosemond’s syndicated column in the Santa Fe New Mexican, 9/13/2015.
He states that he and Dr. Ravenel found that there is no good evidence that ADHD is a disease, probably inherited, that affects brain chemistry and function.
He states that “on numerous occasions” they have seen ADHD symptoms disappear completely without medication. As opposed to the headline, they attribute these results to “a combination of strategic discipline, restricting electronic media and diet.” This is called anecdotal evidence, as opposed to scientific research. At first, I assumed that Mr. Rosemond would not lie about this and I wondered if those patients had been incorrectly diagnosed. Now, I question my assumption. Also, Mr. Rosemond didn’t mention that they do not believe that ADHD exists.
Mr. Rosemund states that two pediatricians, Millichap and Yee, “emphasize adding Omega-3 fatty acids and decreasing or completely eliminating processed foods, artificial colorings, and preservatives.” He quotes them, “Supplemental diet therapy is simple, relatively inexpensive and is more acceptable to patient and parent.”
The abstract of the Millichap Yee paper actually states “In practice, additive-free and oligoantigenic/elimination diets are time-consuming and disruptive to the household; they are indicated only in selected patients. Iron and zinc are supplemented in patients with known deficiencies; they may also enhance the effectiveness of stimulant therapy. In patients failing to respond or with parents opposed to medication, omega-3 supplements may warrant a trial.”
Yee, by the way, is not a pediatrician, but a nurse practitioner.
The scientific research shows that some children benefit somewhat from diet modification and many benefit a little from omega – 3 supplements. Also that the medications, which Rosemond and Ravenel oppose, are not helpful to some, are significantly helpful to many, and are a miracle for some. This fits with my experience (anecdotal).
The scientific evidence is quite strong for the existence of ADHD, its partially genetic basis and the demonstrable abnormalities in brain structure, chemistry and function.
Rosemond is known for his old-fashioned parenting philosophy and approach. That, in combination with his outspoken political conservatism, has earned him a number of critics, especially within the mental health professions. Rosemond, a psychologist, generally begins his presentations by telling his audiences that “psychology is a secular religion that one believes in by faith” and that psychology has done more harm than good to the American family.
Rosemond advocates what he calls a traditional disciplinary approach to parenting, a view that makes him controversial. Some don’t like his views on toilet training and spanking  as they run counter to other parenting experts’ recommendations.
John Rosemond has a master’s degree (MS), and is licensed as a “psychological associate” in the State of North Carolina. Over the years, Rosemond has received disciplinary sanctions from the North Carolina Licensing Board for misrepresenting his professional credentials and assuming provider-client relationship in inappropriate circumstances.
There is nothing wrong with trying diet modification, electronic media restriction and appropriate discipline. Unfortunately, discipline is not very effective with ADHD children. The damage would come from waiting too long if this is not working. I believe that everyone with ADHD deserves a trial of medication.
PS I am adding the excellent point from Mindbody (see comments) that even if there is some improvement from these approaches and without medication, it is unlikely to be sustained when the situation changes – the parents get tired of maintaining such discipline or the kid goes to college and loses his important structure, for examples.