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Doubling of ADHD and other psychiatric child diagnoses

- and an overlooked deficiency of nutrients for the nervous system

Doubling of ADHD and other psychiatric child diagnosesFar more children are diagnosed with psychiatric disorders today. In the past seven years alone, twice as many cases of ADHD, autism, depression, and fear are diagnosed in Denmark. Communities are under pressure to find teachers, educators, psychologists and other relevant people with the right skills. Another challenge is that most families with children do not follow the official dietary guidelines, and children generally don’t get enough sunshine. Studies reveal that lack of vitamin D, omega-3 fatty acids, B-vitamins, and magnesium increases the risk of psychiatric disorders. These diseases may therefore simply be a consequence of not eating a sufficiently healthy diet.

According to a study from Denmark’s Technical University (DTU), 90% of Danes do not follow the official dietary guidelines and that may lead to a serious lack of essential nutrients. In spite of this, health authorities always contend that the official dietary guidelines are designed to provide all the necessary nutrients, but things look different in reality. Many children with psychiatric diagnoses are therefore bound to continue suffering, no matter how much psychiatric care they receive. In the following, you can read about some of the studies that show how important it is to eat a healthy diet, and which supplements may be worth looking into.

From 2010-2017, the percentage of children diagnosed with ADHD, autism, depression, and fear before their 15th birthday has increased from four to nine percent and is still going up.

Vitamin D helps children with autism

Exposure to the sun in the summertime is the best way to get vitamin D, but during the winter where the sun sits low in the sky, we are unable to synthesize the vitamin. The problem is made worse by the fact that children and youngster spend much more time indoors now. Even if they are out in the sun, they may not be able to produce enough vitamin D because parents today are in the habit of applying generous amounts of suncream for protection of their children.
Quite a lot of research shows a link between vitamin D deficiency and autism. A placebo-controlled study that is published in the Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry has demonstrated that vitamin D supplements improve symptoms of autism such as hyperactivity, social reclusiveness, and other disabilities.
It is alarming that many babies are vitamin D-deficient at birth or develop a deficiency later on. Vitamin D controls numerous processes in the brain – including gene control, synthesis of serotonin (a neurotransmitter), and inflammatory processes.
Other risk factors are also involved but there is a lot to suggest that vitamin D plays a key role, as the nutrient is important for the activation of genetic and environmental factors.

Leading scientists assume that our modern lifestyle combined with all the skin cancer awareness campaigns that make people avoid the sun has contributed to the widespread vitamin D deficiency problem. This could explain in part the increasing rate of autism, depression, and other neurological disorders.

The brain and nervous system need plenty of omega-3

Our brains contain large quantities of omega-3 fatty acids. Two particular forms of omega-3, EPA and DHA, are particularly important for an enzyme activity known as NOS (nitrogen oxide synthase), which controls memory and learning skills.
While vitamin D is involved in the synthesis of serotonin, EPA and DHA are required for serotonin to function optimally in the brain. Because DHA is a very long-chained fatty acid, it takes up more space in cell membranes. This makes the membrane more flexible and pliable, which is enormously important for the cell’s ability to perform and communicate. DHA also makes the serotonin receptors in nerve cells more sensitive to serotonin.

Omega-3 fatty acids, depression, and ADHD

Depression is a growing problem, even among children and teenagers. According to a new study, supplementing with omega-3 fatty acids helps people who suffer from depression. The required dosage and the time it takes for the supplement to start working depends on how much omega-3 the patients have in their blood. Omega-3 fatty acids have a documented anti-inflammatory effect, and this comes in handy, as science has found a link between depression and brain inflammation. Other studies show that omega-3 supplementation can have a positive effect on ADHD.
Unfortunately, many children get very limited quantities of oily fish, which is the best source of omega-3. To make matters worse, they also get far too much low-quality omega-6 from margarine, ready meals, chips, French fries etc. The imbalance between omega-3 and omega-6 increases your risk of inflammation in the brain plus a host of different neurological disorders. Fish oil supplements contain EPA and DHA, which we humans can easily utilize.

An estimated 30 percent or so of depressive patients have high levels of brain inflammation. In many cases, this is a consequence of having too much abdominal fat and lacking essential nutrients such as vitamin D and omega-3.

Nearly all children with ADHD lack magnesium

Eighty percent of ADHD cases can be ascribed to genetic factors. However, this cannot explain the huge increase in ADHD rates, as our genes are unable to change that much in a few decades. Something in our diets and in the environment must be promoting the disease. According to a new study, 95 percent of a group of 116 children with ADHD lacked magnesium. Magnesium supports over 300 enzyme processes, some of which are important for nerve transmission, so it is vital for everyone with ADHD to get enough magnesium, either from their diets or from supplements. It is essential always to consume magnesium in the proper balance with calcium because too much calcium from dairy products and supplements can tip the boat and displace magnesium, which stresses the cells.

Children of poorly educated parents are more likely to eat unhealthily

Social inequality has risen notably. It is therefore plausible that an entire family’s unhealthy dietary habits have a greater impact than our genes on the risk of developing ADHD.

Magnesium supplements can relieve anxiety, stress, and depression

Researchers from the University of Leeds in Great Britain have reviewed a number of studies, which show that magnesium supplements may be useful as an adjuvant in cases where people suffer from mild anxiety, stress, and depression. Often, these conditions are related. It seems that magnesium is a prerequisite of a strong nervous system, and it is important to consume sufficient quantities in order to prevent various psychiatric disorders.

B-vitamins are important for our mental well-being and cognitive skills

Most B-vitamins are important for our energy turnover, brain, and nervous system. Because B-vitamins are water-soluble and excreted fast, we need to get them in adequate amounts every single day in order to supply our cells with the different B-vitamins they need for the many enzyme processes.

Selected B-vitamins and their importance for our mental health and cognitive skills

Vitamin B1: Nerve and brain function. Lack of this nutrient may cause fear and self-destructive thoughts.

Vitamin B3: Repairs damaged nerve cell DNA. Needed for the synthesis of the neurotransmitter serotonin and for inner rest. Lack of this nutrient may lead to fear and aggression

Vitamin B5: Controls (in collaboration with folic acid and vitamin C) the production of adrenalin and cortisol

Vitamin B6: Needed for the synthesis of neurotransmitters like dopamine and serotonin. Helps maintain our mental balance.

Vitamin B12: Needed for blood formation and for the maintenance and regeneration of nerve cells. Also important for cognitive functions such as concentration and memory.

A recent study suggests that B-vitamins become increasingly effective when you also get plenty of the two omega-3 fatty acids, EPA and DHA, from fish oil.

Folic acid lowers the risk of autism caused by pesticides

Pregnant women are advised to take 400 micrograms of folic acid (vitamin B9), as it lowers the risk of abnormalities of the fetal neural tube, spinal cord, and brain. A new study published in Environmental Health Perspectives shows that higher quantities of folic acid may also lower the risk of a child developing autism caused by pesticide exposure.
It is known that folic acid plays a crucial role in a biochemical process that switches genes on and off. Folic acid is also important for DNA synthesis and repair, which are processes that are particularly important for fetal development because of the rapid cell division. By ingesting more folic acid, you support these functions. It is possible, at least in theory, that these functions also include the repair of DNA that has been damaged by exposure to pesticides.
In any case, it is important for pregnant women to get enough folic acid and to avoid pesticides and other environmental toxins.

Make sure to eat regular, healthy meals during puberty, where you grow fast

Remember to maintain stable blood sugar

Many children and youngsters are not in the habit of eating breakfast or lunch and don’t get their much-needed afternoon snack. Alternatively, the quality of their diet is that poor, they don’t feel properly satiated and have low blood sugar. However, the brain is in constant need of glucose to fuel the cells, and if this mechanism does not work properly, children become tired, inattentive, hyperactive, or negative. Moreover, the unstable blood sugar and the lack of nutrients can set the stage for overweight and different psychiatric diagnoses.
All children must primarily be given healthy, nutritious main meals that include coarse vegetables, unspoiled fats, and oily fish. Many children are also in need of a healthier afternoon snack, and they should also reduce to a minimum their intake of sugar, soft beverages, sweets, pizza, chips, and other sources of empty calories. This is because sugar and other refined carbohydrates deplete the body’s levels of B-vitamins, vitamin C, calcium, magnesium, and zinc, which the nervous system needs.

Studies of school children reveal that one in five fifth-grade students does not eat breakfast on all weekdays

  • 19% of children aged 11-14 years and 34% of those aged 15-19 years do not eat lunch every day
  • Most children and youngsters do not get enough fruit and vegetables – and many never eat oily fish
  • Three in five children eat too much sugar
  • There is a link between their unhealthy lifestyle and the doubling of psychiatric diseases such as ADHD, autism, depression, and fear
  • It is especially lack of vitamin D, omega-3 fatty acids, B-vitamins, and magnesium that increases the risk of these conditions
  • Healthy eating habits and relevant nutritional supplements can often make a positive difference.


DTU Fødevareinstituttet. Flere voksne i Norden spiser usundt. Januar 2017

R.P. Patrick, B.N. Ames. Vitamin D hormones regulates serotonin synthesis. The FASEB Journal 2014

Rapaport MH et al. Inflammation as a predictive biomarker for response to omega-3 fatty acids in major depressive disorder: a proof-of-concept study. Molecular Psychiatry 2015

Helen Saul Case. Magnesium demper hyperaktivitet blant AD/HD-barn. Helsemagasinet Vitenskap og fornuft. 2017

Kozielec T et al. Assessment of magnesium levels in children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)

Neil Bernard Boyle, Clare Lawton and Louise Dye. The Effects of magnesium Supplementation on Subjective Anxiety and Stress – A systematic Review. Nutrients 2017

Rebecca J. Schmidt et al. Combines Prenatal Pesticide Exposure and Folic Acid Intake in Relation to Autism Spectrum Disorder. Environmental Helath Perspectives. 2017åltidsmærke_skal_fremme_sund_skolemad.aspx

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