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Food allergies and ADHD

A controversial new Dutch study may have found a link between food allergies and ADHD. However, many experts are dismissing the findings. The study found that in children with ADHD, putting them on a restrictive diet to eliminate possible, previously unknown food allergies or sensitivities decreased hyperactivity for 64% of them. “There is a longstanding, somewhat inconsistent story about diet and ADHD,” said Jan Buitelaar, the lead author of the Dutch study and a psychiatrist at the Radboud University Nijmegen Medical Centre. “On the one hand, people think it’s sugar that’s the trigger, others think that food coloring could be causing ADHD. Our approach was quite different. We went [with] the idea that food may give some kind of allergic or hyperactivity reaction to the brain.”

There have been previous studies in this field, but they were limited. “This has long been viewed as a kind of a controversial approach,” Buitelaar said. “When we started the research, I was skeptical, but the results convinced me.”

In the study, of the 41 kids who completed the elimination diet, 32 saw decreased symptoms. When certain foods thought to be “triggers” for each child were reintroduced, most of the children relapsed. Among 50 kids given a “control” diet that was just a standard, healthy diet for children, no significant changes were noted. Given these findings, Buitelaar recommended that the elimination diet become part of standard of care for children with ADHD. However, while pediatricians acknowledge some effectiveness, they were against the elimination diet as part of the care for children with ADHD.

“People seem to think that dietary modification is essentially ‘free,’ but it is difficult, socially disruptive, and presents the risk for nutritional deficiency,” said Dr. Michael Daines, a pediatric allergist-immunologist at the University of Arizona. Though Daines is willing to work with families who want to try an elimination diet for treating ADHD, he feels it will only have an effect if the child is having a true food allergy or intolerance.


Memories are made of this

“This protein is present in the part of the brain in which memories are stored. We have found that in order for any memory to be laid down this protein, called the M3-muscarinic receptor, has to be activated.

“We have also determined that this protein undergoes a very specific change during the formation of a memory – and that this change is an essential part of memory formation. In this regard our study reveals at least one of the molecular mechanisms that are operating in the brain when we form a memory and as such this represents a major break through in our understanding of how we lay down memories.

“This finding is not only interesting in its own right but has important clinical implications. One of the major symptoms of Alzheimer's disease is memory loss. Our study identifies one of the key processes involved in memory and learning and we state in the paper that drugs designed to target the protein identified in our study would be of benefit in treating Alzheimer's disease.”

Professor Tobin said there was tremendous excitement about the breakthrough the team has made and its potential application: “It has been fascinating to look at the molecular processes involved in memory formation. We were delighted not only with the scientific importance of our finding but also by the prospect that our work could have an impact on the design of drugs for the treatment of Alzheimer's disease.”


Benefits of Calcium and Vitamin D

Led by researchers at Copenhagen University in Denmark, Robbins and an international team of colleagues analyzed the results of seven large clinical trials from around the world to assess the effectiveness of vitamin D alone or with calcium in reducing fractures among people averaging 70 years or older. The researchers could not identify any significant effects for people who only take vitamin D supplements.

Among the clinical trial results analyzed was Robbins' WHI research, which was part of a 15-year, national program to address the most common causes of death, disability and poor quality of life in postmenopausal women such as cardiovascular disease, cancer and osteoporosis. Those trials were primarily designed to study the effect of calcium and vitamin D supplementation in preventing hip fractures, with a secondary objective of testing the supplements on spine and other types of fractures, as well as on colorectal cancer. The results were published in the Feb. 16, 2006 edition of the New England Journal of Medicine.

Fractures are a major cause of disability, loss of independence and death for older people. The injuries are often the result of osteoporosis, or porous bone, a disease characterized by low bone mass and bone fragility. The National Osteoporosis Foundation estimates that about 10 million Americans have osteoporosis; 80 percent of them are women. Four of 10 women over age 50 will experience a fracture of the hip, spine or wrist in their lifetime, and osteoporosis-related fractures were responsible for an estimated $19 billion in health-related costs in 2005.

“This study supports a growing consensus that combined calcium and vitamin D is more effective than vitamin D alone in reducing a variety of fractures,” said Robbins. “Interestingly, this combination of supplements benefits both women and men of all ages, which is not something we fully expected to find. We now need to investigate the best dosage, duration and optimal way for people to take it.”


Disordered Eating May Affect up to 15 Percent of Women

Several maladaptive eating behaviors, beyond anorexia, can affect women. Indeed, some 10 to 15 percent of women have maladaptive eating behaviours and attitudes according to new study from the Université de Montréal and the Douglas Mental Health University Institute published in the International Journal of Eating Disorders.

“Our results are disquieting,” says Lise Gauvin, a professor at the Université de Montréal Department of Social and Preventive Medicine. “Women are exposed to many contradictory messages. They are encouraged to lose weight yet also encouraged to eat for the simple pleasure of it.”

Some 1,501 women took part in the phone survey on eating disorders and disordered eating. Not one participant was classified as anorexic. The average age of these urban-dwelling participants was 31, the majority of respondents were non-smokers and university graduates.

Dr. Gauvin says the study sheds new light on binge eating and bulimia, which are characterized in part by excessive eating accompanied by feelings of having lost control. “About 13.7 percent of women interviewed for this study reported binge eating one to five days or one to seven times per month,” she says, noting 2.5 percent of women reported forcing themselves to vomit, use laxatives, or use diuretics to maintain their weight or shape.

The investigation also established a link between problematic eating behaviours and self-rated health. In other words, deviant eating behaviours are more likely to occur in women who perceived themselves to be in poor health.

Another finding of the study was that 28 percent of women complete intense exercise twice a month with the sole objective of losing weight or influencing. “We practice a sport for the pleasure it provides, to feel good, but when the activity is done to gain control over one's weight and figure, it is indicative of someone who could be excessively concerned about their weight,” says Dr. Gauvin. “Our data suggests that a proportion of the female population displays maladaptive eating patterns.”

This study was supported by the Canadian Institutes for Health Research.


Be Good to Yourself

Due to loss of loved ones, health problems, trouble paying bills, or other reasons, many older people feel lonely, sad, or stressed in their daily lives. Feelings like these may cause you to lose energy, not feel like doing anything, not eat enough, or overeat. Being good to yourself may help you to cope with your feelings and improve your energy level, eating habits, and health. Here are some ideas for being good to yourself:

  • Get enough sleep.
  • Stay connected with family and friends.
  • Join a walking group, or other social group.
  • Surround yourself with people whose company you enjoy.Volunteer or get active with groups in your community.
  • Try a part-time job at a place you would enjoy working for a few hours a week.
  • Watch a funny movie and laugh.
  • Take up a hobby such as playing cards, gardening, cooking, or dancing.

Remember, it's never too late to improve your eating plan, be more physically active, and be good to yourself for a healthier life. If you need to talk, make an appointment to see Nastaran.