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Children with ADD or Bipolar Disorder Have Certain Nutritional Needs

Children with ADD or Bipolar Disorder Have Certain Nutritional Needs

The full article on this topic was released by the Orthomolecular Medicine News Service. We are providing excerpts below as a public service and as a way to give parents another option to consider, in collaboration with their physicians, psychiatrists and other mental health professionals, for children suffering from Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) or bipolar disorder:

A New York Times Magazine cover story, “The Bipolar Kid” (September 14, 2008) is a very bleak article. While emphasizing the miseries of living with a child with this illness, Jennifer Egan’s article offers little hope except for ever-increasing doses of lithium.

Pediatrician Lendon H. Smith, M.D., nationally famous as “The Children’s Doctor,” stated very plainly that sugar causes profound mood disorders. He specifically advised parents to give their children a “sugarless diet without processed foods.” This is not easy. The Center for Science in the Public Interest reported that children between the ages of six and 11 drink nearly a pint of soda every day. Twenty percent of toddlers drink soda, nearly a cup daily. And, of the seven best selling soft drinks, six contain caffeine. In sensitive persons, caffeine can cause psychotic behavior.

Food colorings and benzoate preservatives increase childhood hyperactivity, according to research published in Archives of Disease in Childhood in June 2004. The study, involving 277 preschool children, also demonstrated that withdrawing these chemical additives decreased hyperactivity. When additives were reintroduced, there was once again an increase in hyperactivity. “Additives do have an effect on overactive behavior independent of baseline allergic and behavioral status,” said lead author Dr. J.O. Warner.

“What is going on in the mind can be influenced by the nutrients and chemicals going into it. You can’t get anywhere with a patient with psychiatric symptomatology if their brain is hungry, starved or poisoned,” said Ian Brighthope, M.D.

Allergist Benjamin Feingold, M.D. was convinced of the negative effect of food chemicals on children’s behavior and the role of good nutrition in treatment. “Numerous studies show that certain synthetic food additives can have serious learning, behavior and/or health effects for sensitive people,” said the Feingold Association.

Another word totally absent from the Times article is “vitamin.” Psychiatrist Abram Hoffer, M.D. has decades of experience and considerable success treating children’s behavioral disorders with vitamins. High doses of vitamin B-3 (niacin or niacinamide) were first used by Hoffer and colleague Dr. Humphrey Osmond in the early 1950s. The trials were double-blind and placebo controlled. Over half a century later, vitamin therapy has still been largely ignored by the psychiatric profession.

A case study involved a child having serious behavioral problems in school and at home. Interestingly, the child had already been taking physician-prescribed niacin, though less than 150 mg/day, which evidently wasn’t enough to be effective. Drug trials had been ineffective in this case, although they sometimes can be very helpful.
In desperation, the mother finally gave him 500 mg of niacin, three times daily, and there was some improvement. With about 500 mg every two hours (an astounding 6,000-8,000 mg/day), the boy was a new person. He was now cheerful, cooperative and affectionate. Adding vitamin C and B-6 to his regimen helped even more. His school performance soared and the teachers repeatedly commented on how much they loved him. At age 15, his maintenance dose was about 3,000 mg/day. He has since graduated from high school and is successfully employed. This is exactly in line with what Dr. Hoffer has repeatedly demonstrated for over 50 years.


Smith L. Foods for Healthy Kids. Berkley, 1991. ISBN-10: 0425127087; ISBN-13: 978-0425127087

Jacobson MF. Liquid Candy: How soft drinks are harming Americans’ health. September 18, 2008.

Whalen R. Welcome to the dance: caffeine allergy, a masked cerebral allergy and progressive toxic dementia. Trafford Publishing, 2005. ISBN-10: 1412050006; ISBN-13: 978-1412050005. Reviewed in Journal of Orthomolecular Medicine, 2005. Vol 20, No 3, p 215-217 and at

Bateman B, Warner JO, Hutchinson E et al. The effects of a double blind, placebo controlled, artificial food colourings and benzoate preservative challenge on hyperactivity in a general population sample of preschool children. Arch Dis Child. 2004. June 1989, (6):506-11.

Interview in the documentary film Food Matters. Permacology Productions, 2008.

Feingold BF. Why Your Child is Hyperactive. NY: Random House, 1985. ISBN: 0394734262.

Hoffer A. Healing Children’s Attention & Behavior Disorders. Toronto: CCNM Press, 2004. ISBN-10: 1897025106; ISBN-13: 978-1897025109.

Nutritional Medicine is Orthomolecular Medicine. Orthomolecular medicine uses safe, effective nutritional therapy to fight illness. The peer-reviewed Orthomolecular Medicine News Service is a non-profit and non-commercial informational resource.

For more information about mental illness in children and treatment options see our specialties page. Click on a specialty to see a list of WBC therapists who treat children with mental health issues.