Glycemic Index, ADHD Inattentive and Sluggish Cognitive Tempo (SCT)

Glycemic Index, Inattentive ADHD and SCT
Inattentive ADHD and Sluggish Cognitive Tempo symptoms may be affected by breakfast meals or so reports a new study out of Britain. The British are way ahead of us when it comes to trying to figure out how our diets affect our health.

A new study published in the British Journal of Nutrition last month looked at how kids learned and retained information after eating different breakfast foods. What they discovered was that the kids that ate foods with a high glycemic load but a low glycemic index, learned better.

The difference between glycemic load and glycemic index is important because of the way these indices affect our insulin levels. Insulin levels are important because sugar is the primary energy source of our cells and too much or to little insulin affect the amount of sugar we have circulating in our bodies. This in turn affects our brain functioning as well as other hormone levels that play a role in our mental health. The correct amount of sugar is necessary for our brain cells and other bodily cells to work properly.

The whole glycemic load/glycemic index calculation is not important here. You can Google these terms if you want to know more about them. What is important is that the researchers of this study have proved what nutritionists have been saying for a very long time, “You are what you eat”.  The study findings showed that high glycemic load meals caused kids to feel more confident and less sluggish or hungry and low glycemic index meals caused the kids to do better on tests of verbal memory and vigilance.

So, high glycemic load meals with low glycemic index numbers are what we need to be feeding ourselves and our children. What does a high GL/Low GI breakfast look like? I thought you might ask. The following foods are fairly high in glycemic load but fairly low on the glycemic index.

Steel cut Oatmeal, bananas, sweet potatoes, melon, pineapple, apple, peanut butter, multigrain toast, multigrain pasta, and brown rice, Multigrain Cheerios with milk or Wheaties cereal with milk. An older study from Lund University in Sweden found that eating a low glycemic but filling “good carbohydrate” breakfast with these foods improved mental focus for 10 hours.

This new study also measured cortisol, a hormone that is increased when the body is stressed, and found that the high glycemic meals increased cortisol levels . Higher cortisol levels are never a good thing, especially for folks with ADHD, Sluggish Cognitive Tempo or Inattentive ADHD (ADHD-PI). You can read more about Inattentive ADD and cortisol in this other post.

I think that it would be a pretty good idea to think about glycemic index and glycemic load when preparing all of our meals. Also remember that as we enter the holiday season, we will be under lots of  stress, both good and bad and it is especially important to remember that what we eat will affect our mental health and the mental health of our children.

British Journal of Nutrition. 2011 Nov;106(10):1552-61. Epub 2011 Jun 8.
Glycaemic index and glycaemic load of breakfast predict cognitive function and mood in school children: a randomized controlled trial.

Micha R, Rogers PJ, Nelson M.

Nutritional Sciences Research Division, King's College London, 150 Stamford Street, London SE1 9NH, UK.

The macronutrient composition of a breakfast that could facilitate performance after an overnight fast remains unclear. As glucose is the brain's major energy source, the interest is in investigating meals differing in their blood glucose-raising potential. Findings vary due to unaccounted differences in glucoregulation, arousal and cortisol secretion. We investigated the effects of meals differing in glycaemic index (GI) and glycaemic load (GL) on cognition and mood in school children. A total of seventy-four school children were matched and randomly allocated either to the high-GL or low-GL group. Within each GL group, children received high-GI and low-GI breakfasts. Cognitive function (CF) and mood were measured 95-140 min after breakfast. Blood glucose and salivary cortisol were measured at baseline, before and after the CF tests. Repeated-measures ANOVA were used to identify differences in CF, mood, glucose and cortisol levels between the breakfasts. Low-GI meals predicted feeling more alert and happy, and less nervous and thirsty (P < 0·05 for each); high-GL meals predicted feeling more confident, and less sluggish, hungry and thirsty (P < 0·05 for each). High-GL (P < 0·001) and high-GI (P = 0·05) meals increased glucose levels 90 min after breakfast, and high-GI meals increased cortisol levels (P < 0·01). When baseline mood, glucose and cortisol levels were considered, low-GI meals predicted better declarative-verbal memory (P = 0·03), and high-GI meals better vigilance (P < 0·03); observed GI effects were valid across GL groups. GI effects on cognition appear to be domain specific. On balance, it would appear that the low-GI high-GL breakfast may help to improve learning, and of potential value in informing government education policies relating to dietary recommendations and implementation concerning breakfast.


  1. There are many parents these days that take their children for chiropractic treatment and care. It has been observed that children can take advantage of this treatment method starting from birth till throughout the childhood. Handling a child with ADHD in your house can be a problematic work but it has been observed that chiropractic treatment can help a lot with the symptoms of ADHD.

    Children suffering from the problem of ADHD or attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder can act out in various ways. They may control themselves, not obey commands and bully other children. These children might get violent and may have rough behavior like throwing things around.

    According to a survey by American Chiropractic Association in 1991, the number of chiropractic patients of sixteen years of age and younger has increased to 8.5%. Chiropractic services is the most common alternative method of treatment performed on children and it is completely safe.

    A study conducted in 1975 compared the effect of chiropractic treatment and drugs in children suffering from ADHD. The study showed that chiropractic services was twenty four percent more effective than normal drug prescription. It worked over the wide range of symptoms which are common in neurological dysfunction syndrome. So, chiropractic treatment works good with children having ADHD.

    It has been observed that children who suffer from the problem of ADHD have successful results with chiropractic treatment. It has also been noticed that children who have vertebral subluxation and do not show any symptoms of ADHD should still have chiropractic services. The best method of treatment in case of ADHD is chiropractic services. It is completely natural and so it does not have any side effects. This makes it very safe for your child. With proper treatment and care, the symptoms of this condition can be helped to a great degree.

  2. Chiropractic care has been used for mental health problems with varying degrees of success for many year. This care falls into the realm of what traditional physicians call Complementary and alternative medicine (CAM). The use of CAM has increased over the past two decades, and surveys have shown that up to 44% of patients with neurological type problems use one form or another of non-traditional medical treatment. The studies available on the success of Chiropractic care and ADHD are very limited and some consider the available studies to be "promotional" in nature. That is, they promote the use of Chiropractic care. The same criticism however could be leveled at studies performed by the pharmaceutical companies. The benefits of chiropractic care for ADHD is probably related to the individual counselling and treatment given by each individual Chiropractic provider to whatever problem symptoms is treated. A chiropractor who counsels the family on appropriate Executive function and behavioral interventions for ADHD symptoms should be and will be as successful as a Psychiatrist who does the same.


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