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What is the Feingold Diet for ADHD?

Donna Hill Howes, RN
Family Medicine
Back in the 1970s, it was thought that the Feingold Diet might offer an effective treatment for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). This diet played into the public’s concern about the potential dangers of food additives, artificial flavorings, and dyes in the American diet. Dr. Benjamin Feingold, a practicing allergist, wanted to find the cause of the growing problem of hyperactivity and learning disabilities. He suspected that food additives, along with salicylates (substances found in many fruits and vegetables), were to blame.

Dr. Feingold said that when children followed a special elimination diet that removed these substances, half of all participants displayed dramatic improvements in behavior. When these substances were returned to the children’s diets, the symptoms returned. As a result, the Feingold Diet became very successful, even though there was little, if any, real evidence of this diet’s effectiveness. In addition, the diet was hard to stick to, especially when parents were not around to monitor the diet.

Few children following the Feingold Diet showed any improvements, and this diet is no longer prescribed for ADHD. But it was found that eliminating food dyes improved children’s health. Today, physicians recommend screening certain children for food sensitivities.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.