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Is the Feingold Diet an ADHD Cure?

"My kids are on the Feingold Diet, and it appears to have cured their ADHD. Why don't we hear more about it?"

by Larry Silver, M.D. , Penny Williams

ADDitude Answers

In his 1974 book Why Your Child Is Hyperactive, Benjamin Feingold, M.D., argued that ADHD can be caused by food additives or preservatives and that symptoms go away once a child changes his diet. But numerous studies conducted since the book's publication have failed to support this controversial theory, for either children or adults.

The studies did suggest, however, that about one percent of people with ADHD can become "hyper" for about an hour after consuming certain food dyes, especially red dye. If someone with ADHD is known to have this sensitivity, it certainly makes sense to avoid this dye.

If you really believe that the diet is helping your children, continue to use it. But if there's any uncertainty, I urge you to consider proven treatments.

Posted by Larry Silver, M.D.
Author of The Misunderstood Child: Understanding and Coping with Your Child's Learning Disabilities

ADDitude Answers

There are many aspects to a healthy lifestyle, which is basically what’s recommended for ADHD: no artificial dyes and chemicals, lots of nutrient-rich foods, extra protein in the morning, etc.

These articles offer great guidance: Fighting ADHD With Nutrition & Diet

Some people have success with alternative treatments like supplements and special diets, but that isn’t enough for the majority of folks with ADHD. Of course, you want to try the least invasive treatments first.

If the Feingold diet worked for your family when you followed it strictly, stick with it. You can research ingredients online before going to the store. I think Feingold even offers a list of approved products if you purchase the program.

Here’s some expert insight on Feingold: [[NewWindow(, _blank, Alternative ADHD Treatment: Can Diet Ease Symptoms?)]]

Posted by Penny Williams
ADDconnect Moderator, Author on Parenting ADHD, Mom to teen boy with ADHD, LDs, and autism

A Reader Answers

The Feingold Association has been researching products that contain no preservatives and dyes for the last thirty hears and publishes a list as part of their Feingold diet. It lists Larabar protein bars as one of the brands that meets their criteria (Cashew Cookie, Peanut Butter Cookie, and Pistachio). Feingold also lists Allergen-Free Nutrition Bars (Chocolate chip) by Allerenergy.

To get a copy of Feingold materials, which include a substantial listing of additive-free products, see their website:

Posted by Chris H

A Reader Answers

We follow the Feingold Diet, and they publish a yearly food list that you take to the grocery store to help you shop. It has helped our family tremendously. It was life changing, literally. Both of my kids and I are on medication, but my daughter and I have pretty significant difficulties even after taking medication. I can feel an almost immediate effect after having one of the “non-Feingold” foods (like a preservative in a candy bar) and I can't think straight for hours!

We have also noticed that dairy and grains are a big part of the issue, and have eliminated those. The Feingold program publishes a cookbook and a packet for new members with all sorts of tips, recipes, and research studies. They also have a member message board. It's possible that changing your family's diet can help immensely, it has for us.

If you do end up eating a food that is not-Feingold, taking 2 tablets of Alka Seltzer GOLD in some water has helped minimize the reaction for my family.

Long story short, this type of diets has changed our lives significantly. It's definitely worth it!! Good luck to you.

Posted by AmiraA

A Reader Answers

Try to eliminate anything with red dye. Red dyes and high fructose corn syrup make my son very hyper, even when he is on medication. If he is more hyper than normal on a certain day, we can usually trace it back to something he ate. The Feingold diet takes out all artificial dyes and most preservatives. It has made a huge difference in my ADHD son. It’s not easy because so much stuff is made with the red dye, but it’s worth a try!

Posted by TreE

A Reader Answers

Like the old saying, we are what we eat. You’ll never go wrong with a non-dye, preservative free, organic diet. I say it’s worth it for my family. We’ve always eaten that way.

Posted by BJBSMITH

A Reader Answers

My son has ADHD and prior to his diagnosis we used a food elimination diet to try to resolve some of his issues. We found he had an intolerance to salicylates (natural chemical in most fruit and vegetables). Apparently 80% of kids with ADHD react to salicylates. It's worth looking into.

For my son, when he has foods high in salicylates it is like someone turns him ‘up’. He gets a general buzz and finds it harder to get to sleep. He is louder and sillier.

Hope this helps somewhat. It is something to investigate at the very least.

Posted by mum4ever

This question was asked on the ADDConnect forums. Read the original discussion here.


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