The Feingold Diet Program for ADHD

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Violence, Aggression,
& Conduct Disorder

In 1978, the Program Plan of the Law Enforcement Administration of the United States Department of Justice, concluded: "Today, the most important issue of rehabilitation is the growing conviction among both experts and lay persons that most treatment has been ineffectual for rehabilitating offenders." Although not much has changed in the "big picture" in the 30+ years since then, there have been a few hopeful lights in the darkness, which will be discussed below under "Diet Connection."

Although many of them are chemically similar to drugs, not only have most of these additives never been tested for side effects or behavioral effects, but most have never even been tested for safety, falling under the "de minimis principle" by which Kroes (2000, 2002, 2005) convinced the FDA that "a little bit can't hurt" and testing was unnecessary.
In 1979, Dr. Feingold published an article called Dietary Management for Juvenile Delinquency in the International Journal of Offender Therapy and Comparative Criminology. See full text. In it, he comments that there were approximately 4,000 chemicals added to foods as "intentional additives" ... today there are closer to 12,000 (see box at right).

Dr. Feingold described three case histories illustrating the development of delinquency beginning with behavioral problems in infancy and childhood, and later resolved by dietary control. He said that the cause of the original behavioral disturbances may often be the cause of the later delinquency, and that nutrition plays an important role. He described the original Feingold Diet which, he said, will "lead to a favorable response in observed behavior in approximately 60 to 70 percent of the disturbed children. For those who fail to respond to this regimen, other factors, both synthetic and natural, must be considered, e.g. milk, eggs, corn, wheat, perfumes, sprays, etc. It must be recognized that any compound, natural or synthetic, can induce an adverse reaction if the individual has the appropriate genetic profile."

In 1981, Dr. Feingold addressed the New York State Assembly Standing Committee on Child Care. Again, he focused his attention on juvenile delinquency: "It is not necessary to cite statistics to support the contention that juvenile delinquency, vandalism, violence, assault and crime in general show a persistent rise in prevalence . . . every modality for rehabilitation of delinquency and adult criminals has failed. Since all these procedures have been structured on psychosocial factors, we must look elsewhere for the answers, and that answer is to be found in the biosciences, which include genetics, moleccular genetics, pharmacogenetics, behavioral toxicology, behavioral teratology, immunology, immunochemistry, allergy, endocrinology, with a focus on nutrition, which encompasses all these areas."

Nevertheless, today most parents who seek help for troubled children are offered only a limited choice of counseling and drugs, and there is seldom any attempt on the part of the health care givers to consider possible underlying chemical or nutritional factors. The usual diagnosis for such children is ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder), ODD (oppositional defiant disorder) or CD (conduct disorder) - all just descriptions of what the parent already knows - and psychostimulants are the major tool used to treat them. Parents are told that the child has a mysterious brain disorder despite the fact that the National Institutes of Health in 1998 found "...there are no data to indicate that ADHD is due to a brain malfunction." (This statement was on their website for several years but has since been removed.)

Diet Connection

Since the 1970s, very little has been done to address the need for effective rehabilitation in our prisons. We know there are treatments that work, but they are seldom made available.

  • Dr. Stephen Schoenthaler has published a series of studies conducted in juvenile prison systems and schools. In the prison studies, he found that improved diet plus the addition of vitamins improved behavior dramatically, reducing rule-breaking and violence 40% or more.

  • Elevated levels of lead and other environmental toxins such as cadmium, arsenic, mercury, or copper have been linked to behavioral abnormalities. Nevertheless, most children are never tested for their "body burdens" of such chemicals.

  • Nor are children in trouble usually tested for zinc deficiency even though it is known to trigger behavioral problems, including aggression (Ward 1990, 1997). Ward's research showed that children with a diagnosis of ADHD lost zinc faster than other people did when they ate foods containing food dye.

  • The Pfeiffer Treatment Center / Health Research Institute in Illinois has many years of successful experience helping children whose violent behavior is the result of nutritional imbalance.

    In the 1970s and 80s, Barbara Reed Stitt was having remarkable success in helping parolees stay out of trouble. Most probation officers had success with only 15% of their parolees; Barbara's success rate was an unheard-of 85%. What she did was convince them to improve their diet. You can read about her work in the book Food & Behavior, a Natural Connection.

    You can also see her work with the Appleton Alternative School in Wisconsin, a school for troubled teenagers, in an article called "A Different Kind of School Lunch."

  • Schmidt (1997) compared a diet eliminating all additives as well as most allergens with Ritalin for children with conduct-disorder as well as ADHD. 44% of them responded to Ritalin, while 24% responded equally well to the Feingold-type diet. He concluded, "dietary treatment cannot be neglected as a possible access to treating hyperactive/disruptive children."

  • Peter (1997) surveyed 100 young criminals and found that 75% of them had food allergies, food intolerance, and nutritional problems, compared to only 18% of the young non-offender population.

    "The supplements just provided the vitamins, minerals and fatty acids found in a good diet, which the inmates should get anyway. Yet the improvement was huge"
    - C. Bernard Gesch

  • In 1998, Peter successfully treated nine children with persistent anti-social disruptive and/or criminal behavior by changing their diet to avoid the identified problem foods.

  • Gesch (2002) showed that antisocial behavior in prisons, including violence, are dramatically reduced by ordinary supplements of vitamins, minerals, and essential fatty acids (but not by placebo).

  • Crime Times is a free publication that focuses on chemical, environmental, and nutritional factors that can result in violent behavior.

In summary, although not much research on violence and the Feingold diet has been specifically done, there has been enough work done to warrant a trial of this simple and safe diet, as well as testing for biochemical imbalances and toxic metals.

Links:      - Joshua's story
- Studies on Diet & Conduct Disorder
- Appleton, Wisconsin Central Alternative High School
- Crime Times