Association between dietary behaviors and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder and learning disabilities in school-aged children

Psychiatry Res. 2012 Aug 15;198(3):468-76. doi: 10.1016/j.psychres.2012.02.012. Epub 2012 Sep 20.


We aimed to comprehensively investigate the associations between a wide range of measures of dietary behaviors and learning disabilities and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in community-dwelling Korean children in order to generate hypotheses for future work. The present study included 986 children [507 boys, 479 girls; mean (S.D.) age=9.1 (0.7) years] recruited from five South Korean cities. Children's dietary behaviors were assessed by the mini-dietary assessment (MDA) for Koreans. It consists of ten items to assess the level of intake of dairy products, high-protein foods, vegetables, fried foods, fatty meats, salt, and sweetened desserts and whether the subject is eating three regular meals and has a balanced diet. Learning disability was assessed via the Learning Disability Evaluation Scale (LDES). ADHD was assessed via the Diagnostic Interview Schedule for Children version-IV and the ADHD rating scale, and ADHD-related behavioral problems were assessed via the Child Behavior Checklist. After adjusting for potential confounders, a high intake of sweetened desserts, fried food, and salt is associated with more learning, attention, and behavioral problems, whereas a balanced diet, regular meals, and a high intake of dairy products and vegetables is associated with less learning, attention, and behavioral problems. Our data suggest that existing encouraged dietary habits mostly have beneficial effects on learning, attention, and behavioral problems in Korean children. These findings are in general the same results in other studies on ADHD children in other countries. However, the cross-sectional study design prevents our ability to assess causal relationships.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Attention Deficit Disorder with Hyperactivity / psychology*
  • Child
  • Child Behavior / psychology*
  • Cognition
  • Feeding Behavior / psychology*
  • Female
  • Health Surveys / statistics & numerical data
  • Humans
  • Internal-External Control
  • Learning Disabilities / psychology*
  • Male
  • Psychiatric Status Rating Scales / statistics & numerical data
  • Republic of Korea
  • Wechsler Scales / statistics & numerical data