Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) has been found to occur in three to five percent of children, with the majority of affected individuals being male (Schmitt, 2000). ADHD is defined by Ford-Martin (1999) as a developmental disorder characterized by distractability, hyperactivity, impulsive behaviors, and the inability to remain focused on tasks or activities. Known outside of the United States as hyperkinetic disorder (HKD), the disorder is difficult to assess in infancy and toddlerhood, but signs begin to appear as early as age two or three.
The causes of ADHD are as yet unknown, but Ford-Martin (1999) suggests that heredity is likely to play a major role in the development of the disorder. Research indicates that children with an ADHD parent or sibling are more likely to develop this disorder. Prior to birth, ADHD children may have been exposed to poor maternal nutrition, viral infections, or maternal substance abuse, all of which have been found in association with the disorder. Early childhood exposure to lead and other toxins may cause ADHD-like symptoms, while traumatic brain injury or neurological disorders have been found to trigger ADHD symptoms.
Ford-Martin (1999) also notes that an imbalance of certain neurotransmitters (i.e., the chemicals in the brain that transmit messages between nerve cells) is believed to be the mechanism behind ADHD symptoms. Rubin (2001) has pointed out that ADHD is a complex disorder with a myriad range of associated symptoms that might in fact be triggered by allergic reactions to certain foods and food additives. However, Ford-Martin (1999) claims that little empirical evidence supports any association between food allergies and excessive sugar consumption and ADHD.
According to the American Psychiatric Association (APA) (1994), at least six of the following symptoms of inattention or six or more symptoms of hyperactivity and impulsivity combined must be present f...