In America, the go-to guy on ADHD is Dr. Russell Barkley, whose impressive credentials include psychologist, clinical professor of psychiatry at the Medical University of South Carolina, and author of several books. In an online course on ADHD, Dr. Barkley compares my views on ADHD those of the Church of Scientology. Rather than address the salient issues, he has consistently preferred ridicule and simplistic representations of my position on the subject.
When I sought permission to use quotes from his papers, Barkley initially refused, implying that I might take him out of context. He eventually relented, allowing me and developmental/behavioral pediatrician Bose Ravenel to compare his position to ours in The Diseasing of America’s Children (Thomas Nelson, 2009). To my knowledge, Barkley has never publicly addressed the issues we raise in the book.
Barkley believes ADHD is a disease, probably inherited, that affects brain chemistry and function. After nearly ten years of research, Dr. Ravenel and I came to the conclusion that no good evidence exists to support Barkley’s disease hypothesis. Barkley is on record saying that although behavior therapy (behavior modification) can be a useful supplementary treatment, no approach to ADHD has ever or is probably ever going to completely replace pharmaceutical therapy. In this regard it is significant to note that Barkley has had ties to Eli Lilly and Company, the developer of the popular ADHD drug Strattera. In our book, Dr. Ravenel and I review the drawbacks of pharmaceutical therapy and lay out an alternative, research-based treatment plan involving a combination of strategic discipline, restricting electronic media, and diet. The plain truth is that on numerous occasions we have seen ADHD symptoms completely disappear without medication.
In 2012, the highly respected, peer-reviewed journal Pediatrics published a paper titled “The Diet Factor in Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder” by two pediatricians — Gordon Millichap and Michelle Yee — who specialize in work with children who exhibit classic ADHD behaviors. What the authors found is that nutrition plays a significant role, for better or worse, in how a child’s brain works and that a proper diet (as opposed to the common refined-carbohydrate-saturated American childhood diet) helps children maintain focus and self-control and optimize academic performance. Their recommendations (as did ours) emphasize adding Omega-3 fatty acids and decreasing or completely eliminating processed foods, artificial colorings, and preservatives.
Millichap and Yee conclude that “Supplemental diet therapy is simple, relatively inexpensive, and is more acceptable to patient and parent. Public education regarding a healthy diet pattern and lifestyle to prevent or control ADHD may have greater long-term success.”
As Dr. Ravenel and I point out, a proper diet, as opposed to ADHD medications, has no side effects other than the positive “side effects” of improved mood, memory, focus, alertness, and problem-solving. And it costs a whole lot less to boot!