Why Protein is so Important in ADHD

Our health and our quality of life are undeniably tied to our diets.  This is true across and within cultures.  The better your diet is, the better your health will be.  A poor diet worsens symptoms of many diseases and it is not an exaggeration to say that the single most important component of an effective ADHD treatment plan is diet.  Here is why.

Diets that are adequate in protein and low in complex carbohydrates have been consistently proven to improve the symptoms of ADHD.  Children with ADHD often crave carbohydrates and shun protein.  The carbohydrates provide them with a very temporary sense of well being but ultimately causes a dopamine depletion, which worsens their symptoms.

Low protein diets cause the body to secrete insulin.  Insulin tells cells to pull out dopamine and norepinephrine making amino acids out of the blood stream and to put them in storage for later use.  This in turn causes the brain to have an inadequate amount of these neurotransmitters.

Dopamine and norepinephrine are the neurotransmitters in the brain that allow us to feel alert, allow our memory to function properly, and allow us

to feel motivated.  The neurotransmitters in our brain are made from amino acids in the foods that we eat.   Amino acids in our food are moved into our brains by a highly complex process that involves many other chemicals and molecules, which must in our body, all be in place, and in the correct amount.  The best way to achieve this perfect balance of amino acids and helper transporter molecules is to eat a diet rich in proteins, vitamins, and minerals.

Taking supplemental amino acids rarely helps as our bodies are programmed to use food, not supplements as neurotransmitter building blocks.  The complex building process is not completed with the use of supplements, which is why studies have been inconsistent regarding their utility in the treatment of ADHD.

Tyrosine is the main amino acid used by neurons to produce norepinephrine and dopamine.  Protein Meat, Milk, Eggs, Cheese, fish and other seafood raise the level of tyrosine in the blood and brain causing neurons to manufacture more norepinephrine and dopamine.

Environmental toxins such as cigarette smoke, sugar,  poor sleep, and stress easily deplete dopamine and norepinephrine levels.  The neurons that use Dopamine are easily damaged by oxidization.  It is thought that antioxidant vitamins such as vitamin C and E not only help protect these neurons from free radical damage but also help with the transmission of amino acids across the blood brain barrier, one of the many necessary
steps in building dopamine and norepinephrine.

Children’s diets are often lacking in nutrients and protein but children with ADHD, often because of Sensory Integration issues,  are pickier eaters than other children.  Getting children to eat an adequate amount of protein is sometimes and uphill battle but it is essential if we are to avoid the symptoms of ADHD that are worsened by a high carbohydrate diet.


  1. The bottom line is high protein diets are good for everyone, not just those with ADHD. Here is another article that details what NOT to eat if you have ADHD.

  2. I am a docotor and this is fake

  3. Would you recommend that children not bother to consume an adequate amount of protein. It is fake that protein is important?? Why is protein unimportant in ADHD?? I agree that protein is important for all children but I disagree that protein does not matter.

  4. Also...

    The brain makes a variety of chemical messengers, or neurotransmitters, to regulate wakefulness and sleep. Studies by Massachusetts Institute of Technology neuroscientist Richard Wurtman Ph.D., and others have shown that protein triggers alertness-inducing neurotransmitters, while carbohydrates trigger drowsiness.

    These findings support the popular belief that people with ADHD do better on a protein-rich breakfast and lunch. Yet child psychologist Vincent J. Monastra, Ph.D., head of an ADHD clinic in Endicott, New York, says that, of the 500 children a year he evaluates for ADHD, less than 5 percent are eating the government-recommended amounts of protein at breakfast and lunch. In addition to boosting alertness, says Monastra, a protein-rich breakfast seems to reduce the likelihood that ADHD medication will cause irritability or restlessness.


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