Lifestyle in 10-11 year old children and the relationship to ADHD
Prevalence of ADHD in the world is around 7% and rising. It is proven that children with ADHD is experiencing difficulties in more areas than just school. So, if there is a way to expect and prevent ADHD by one intervention or another – it would be amazing.
ADHD has many risk factors, including genetics and environmental causes. For example. Risk factors such as exposer to smoking, sedentary lifestyle, bad sleeping habits and over exposer to screens has been linked to the high prevalence of ADHD in children.
In this study, the authors asks the following question – is the lifestyle of children aged 10-11 years can be a risk factor for ADHD diagnosis at 14 years?
This study was published on the “Psychosomatic Medicine” journal on April 2020, PMID 32251098.
Methods: families of children aged 10-11 answered detailed questionnaires regarding the lifestyles of their children. When those children reached 14 years, the data was crosslinked with their files, searching for the diagnosis of ADHD. This is in fact, part of a larger study, studying the lifestyles of children in Canada. Overall 269 schools participated in this study, with full data on 3430 children.
The authors explored 9 parameters as part of the children’s lifestyle.
– Diet (including 6 parameters): consuming at least 6 fruits or vegetables a day, a whole grain, milk and dairy products, meat products, sugar – less than 10% of the daily energy expenditure and saturated fat – less than 10% of the daily energy expenditure.
– Physical activity
– Sleeping at least 9-11 hours a night
– Less than 2 hours screen time a day
And off course, demographic data was collected – residential habitat, parent’s education, yearly income and more.
The research question was – does a diagnosis of ADHD by the age of 14 is linked to the lifestyle of these children in a younger age?
The results are interesting. What is the percentage of children in each of these parameters separately?
– Adequate sleep: 93%
– Meat consumption: 86%
– Physical activity: 77%
– Adequate sugar consumption: 63%
– Adequate milk and dairy consumption: 57%
– Adequate saturated fat consumption: 54%
– Adequate vegetables and fruits consumption: 31%
– Whole grain consumption: 22%
The prevalence of ADHD was 10.8%. 287 children were diagnosed before data collection (age 10-11), and 83 children were diagnosed after that (up to 14 years). The prevalence of ADHD in children who fulfilled every parameter was lower than those who did not. A few parameters did not reach a statistical significance. Those who did reached a statistical significance were – physical activity, fruits and vegetables consumption, meat consumption and an adequate consumption of sugar and fat.
All of these parameters were unaffected and unrelated to demographic data that did reach a statistical significance. Examples for demographic data that was correlative to a higher risk for ADHD is low socioeconomic status, lower level of parent’s education, urban residential habitats, and male versus female.
At what age did different lifestyles began demonstrating differences between the groups? Since 3-4 years.
Notice that even if children are following only 4-6 of these recommendations for a healthy lifestyle, prevalence of ADHD decreases, as appose to those following only 1-3 of the recommendations. Each recommendation lowers the chance of a diagnosis by 18%.
Discussion: the differences are visible at a very young age, therefor it is wise to educate children for a healthy lifestyle at these ages (though most of ADHD diagnosis is done at ages 6-10). Overall, most of the parameters discussed here were proven before as linked to ADHD. However, this is the first study that examined their combined effect.
It is a shame that in some of these parameters and recommendations, there was no clear definition of what is a “normal consumption” – the study refers the reader to the Canadian guidelines (which got even me confused…). Therefore, I couldn’t quantify what is normal meat consumption or an adequate amount of physical activity. But the principle is still there and it is very important. Off course, it requires the attention of parents to these details.
I know, it is easier said than done, but sometimes even “just” knowing can make a huge difference.