Celiac.com 05/08/2009 - In 1996-1997, in an effort to test a hypothesis by scientist Karl Ludvig Reichelt, Norwegian researchers began a long-term study of 23 children aged 4 to 11 from the southwestern Norwegian town of Stavanger. All of the children suffered from hyperactive disorders including ADHD. All children showed abnormal levels of peptides in their urine.
Dr. Reichelt believed that metabolic disorders impair the effective breakdown of certain proteins in children and thereby cause mental problem, such as hyperactive disorders. Related international research has established links between protein disorder and the conditions of autism and schizophrenia. A growing number of studies also hint that some cases of ADHD are tied to digestive disorders. Data from this Norwegian study supports the idea that ADHD may also arise from a digestive disorder.
This study indicates that consumption of certain foods, such as milk and gluten, may contribute to ADHD in children who lack the enzyme that breaks down proteins like casein, a component of milk--which also helps in the formation of cheese.
Interestingly, when children who lack this enzyme eat foods that require the enzyme to properly digest proteins like casein, their brains experience an opium-like effect, which might explain at least some of the spaciness and impaired attention these kids exhibit.
According to Reichalt's theory, hyperactivity can be controlled by reducing the intake of foods that require the presence of this missing enzyme to properly break down the offending proteins.
In the study, 22 of the 23 children were placed on strict milk-free and/or gluten-free diets. They were taken off milk products and other foods containing casein. All exhibited a rapid improvement in general well-being, including improved mental health and general behavior, improved attention-span and better learning abilities. After a year, 22 of the 23 families reported clear improvements in their child's behaviour and attention-span.
When the kids were taken off their diets, their symptoms returned nearly immediately. Before changing their diets, most of the children were taking medications, like Ritalin, to treat their symptoms. After their diets were established, their medications were discontinued.
By 2004, a number of the children had ceased their diets for various reasons and some have returned to medication. Still, six children remained milk-free and several had also cut out gluten, which is found in wheat, rye, barley and to some extent oats.
Due in part to the small sample size, and limited amounts of data from comprehensive studies on the number of ADHD children who suffer from peptide-breakdown abnormalities, the study has been met with a certain resistance among the medical community, where most doctors still believe that the evidence best supports medications like Ritalin as the best way to treat the ADHD.
Still, the results carry weight among the parents, and among the Norwegians, as hundreds of other Norwegian children with ADHD, mainly in and around Stavanger, have in recent years been put on milk-free and/or gluten-free diets to help control ADHD and related disorders.
Agence France Presse 2008.
Yahoo! News 2008