Causes Effects of ADHD

The causes effects of ADHD are varied, and can include both negative and positive consequences. Many people with ADHD symptoms suffer because of inattentive and hyperactive symptoms. Some find also that they are gifted and possess many positive personality traits. If certain factors are discovered to be a possible cause, their elimination can improve if not eliminate their symptoms.

No one has been able to put their finger on the exact causes effects of ADHD symptoms. In most cases it is believed to be inherited and linked to genetics. However, there are other potential causes that need to be ruled out before a complete diagnosis can be made. Following is a list of some of those possible causes effects of ADHD.

Genetics and ADHD

Genetic Link to ADHD

There is evidence within a family tree showing that if a parent or an older sibling has ADHD then there is a four to five times more likely chance that a younger child or sibling will also have ADHD. Some believe in certain cases the gene that allows ADHD can actually grow and develop and thus explaining why some show improving symptoms as the child grows older or even grows out of the symptoms. Thus Genetics is felt to be one of the common causes effects of ADHD.

However, it cannot be determined in whom this may occur, and for more than 50% of children who have ADHD they continue to have ADHD into adulthood. Often when carried into adulthood ADHD symptoms of hyperactivity symptoms diminish and inattention symptoms dominate. Fascinating anecdotal reports show occassional adults who first discover they have ADHD when they have a child diagnosed with ADHD.

Injury Causing ADHD

For a small number of children, their causes effects of ADHD may be as a result of brain injury to the frontal lobe of their brains, which is the part that controls decision making and attention. This can be due to physical injury or by actual chemical injury causing that portion of the brain to not function normally - blocking the processing of information and transmission of signals to other parts of the brain.

Children of mothers who have smoked, drank alcohol in excess or abused drugs during pregnancy have a higher risk of developing ADHD symptoms than those children of mothers who did not do so. Most likely if your ADHD is caused by genetics or injury, some form of medicine plus behavior / cognitive therapy will provide you with the best treatment outcomes.

ADHD and Food Allergies

Often talked about but more difficult to prove are food allergies or intolerances as causes effects of ADHD. Almost anything that you come into contact with or eat can result in some people being allergic or intolerant to. Some have intolerance or allergies to milk and milk products. Others have allergies to peanuts. It stands to reason that some may have intolerance or allergies to food additives as well. For the purpose of this page the term allergy may be interchanged with intolerant.

Following is a list of items or compounds that receive a great deal of attention because there are those who suggest they are toxic, even poison. However, these items have been found to be "safe" when consumed in quantities found in foods and are not inherently toxic or poisonous.

Following are a list or products or compounds that have had reports of intolerant or allergic reactions. The question that must be asked is whether symptoms of ADHD could be due to an intolerance of one of these substances or could it be genetically related? The best way to test for intolerance would be to remove that element from the diet.

Wheat-Gluten Allergy

Gluten is a protein found in grain used to make bread and flour. There is a medical condition called Celiac Disease or CD that is a genetically related condition where after a long period of exposure to gluten containing products the small intestine can become injured. This can occur in young children and result in their small intestines inability to absorb important nutrients. When this happens, a number of symptoms similar to malnutrition may be seen. This can include intestinal issues, growth problems, but also inattention / ADHD type symptoms. A child who has ADHD Symptoms that has a gluten allergy may not have ADHD at all. This underscores the importance that a physician rule out all possible causes effects of ADHD symptoms before making that diagnosis.

Preservatives and ADHD: BHT, BHA

BHT (Butylated Hydroxytoluene) and BHA (Butylated Hydroxyanisole) are both anti-oxidants used in processed foods to prevent spoilage. The FDA has determined that they present no harm in foods at approved levels. There are some who state that in the typical diet of processed foods the risk for consuming these preservatives from multiple food sources in a given time period may exceed the minimum levels of risk studied by the FDA. There are ongoing studies using large doses to see if they may have an impact on gene activity or any possible links to cancer.

BHA Preservative

If you or your child regularly consume processed foods that contain preservatives, and you feel that your symptoms of ADHD are worse since you began doing this, eliminate as many processed foods as possible and over time see if your symptoms improve. In the least, always wash the outside of any fruits or vegetables that may have been sprayed with pesticide or preservative. There are many books written about this subject and several diets available to assist you in this.

Other Preservatives

TBHQ Preservative and Gluten

MSG (Monosodium Glutamate) and Sulfites are additional preservatives that are effective in the job that they do to preserve food. However, there are examples of people who have consumed these additives and had reactions to them. Sulfites were banned by the FDA on fresh foods like lettuce and vegetables. They can still be found in processed foods that are packaged in bags or cans, such as soups, baked goods, beer and wine, condiments, and de-hydrated foods. Labeling must include these agents: look for MSG, and any Sulfur Dioxide or combination of preservative that includes ...sulfite such as sodium bisulfite. These have been more commonly associated with worsening Asthma and typical allergies, and they are less strongly linked to causes effects of ADHD when compared to some of the other elements noted above and below.

ADHD Food Link - Food Additives ADHD

The area that has received the most attention of possible causes effects of ADHD is artificial colors and additives in our foods, medicines, or cosmetics. As far back as the late 1800's manufacturers began adding dyes and flavors to their foods. In some cases it was in attempt to mask bad or rancid products. Some of these additives at that time were actually toxins or even poisons, some containing arsenic. This prompted congress in 1906 to pass the Pure Food and Drug Act which prohibited the use of poisonous additives to conceal damaged or inferior products. This was followed by at least 4 further acts which by 1960 left us with 7 basic coloring dyes with safety data for use in foods. Click on this link to read more about the History of Food Additives and ADHD .

By the 1960's, all dyes that had been found to be toxic had been taken off the market. The seven that remain approved for consumption have a sizeable base of safety data to confirm their use in food products. A few people have suggested that the increase use of these artificial ingredients in the late 60's and 70's correlate to the increase recognition of ADHD symptoms in children and adults. This may have contributed to but is not likely the sole cause for the increase in recognition and treatment of ADHD.

In fact when our FDA reviewed all available published studies from 1980 to 2008 seeking a link to causes effects of ADHD and food color, their conclusion was that a causal relationship between food color additives and hyperactivity in children had NOT been established. Rather the data suggests their symptoms may be worsened by exposure to a number of substances in food, including but not limited to synthetic color additives. These findings also indicated their symptoms were due to unique intolerances to these substances and not to any inherent neurotoxic properties. Click on this link to read more about the FDA actions regarding FDA Review of ADHD Link to Food Coloring .

FD&C Red No. 40

Of those dyes that remain, the FDA has labeled seven that are safe for human consumption. Other dyes have been approved safe for only drug or cosmetic usage. The following abbreviations which appear before the dyes name are important to consider: "FD&C" stands for "Food, Drug, and Cosmetics" and "D&C" stands for "Drug and Cosmetics" only. Of course you can mix these to make different colors, and in addition there are a number of natural or exempt colors that can be used - for example Caramel.

FD&C #


Common Name

Most Common Uses

Blue #1

Bright Blue

Brilliant Blue

Beverages, Powders, Jellies, Confections, Condiments, Icing, Syrup, Extracts

Blue #2

Royal Blue


Baked Goods, Cereals, Snack Foods, Ice Cream

Green #3


Fast Green

Beverages, Pudding, Ice Cream and Sherbet, Baked Goods

Red #3

Red Red


Canned Cherries, Baked Goods, Dairy Products, Snack Foods

Red #40

Red - Leaning Orange

Allura Red

Gelatin, Pudding, Dairy, Beverages, Condiments

Yellow #5

Yellow Yellow


Custard, Beverages, Ice Cream, Preserves, Cereals

Yellow #6

Yellow Orange

Sunset Yellow

Cereals, Baked Goods, Snacks, Ice Cream, Beverages

Artificial Flavors and ADHD

Artificial flavoring uses laboratory made chemicals to mimic the natural version of a flavor. Vanillin, for example is an artificial chemical of combination of chemicals that is made to taste similar to the natural flavor of the vanilla bean. Just like dyes and coloring, people can be intolerant or allergic to these artificial flavors. Little informatoin exists linking artificial flavors to causes effects of ADHD. If this appears to be a concern, natural flavors are available, although you may find they are more expensive than their respective artificial flavor.

Natural and Artificial Flavors

Caffeine, Sugar and Chocolate: ADHD

It is less clear the role that these natural foods/ingredients play alongside causes effects of ADHD symptoms. Caffeine is a mild stimulant and is in most colas and coffees. Caffeine is sometimes added to other soft drings such as Mountain Dew and energy drings. As a stimulant, for some people it can make symptoms of ADHD worse. We all have heard about or seen the effects of sugar and chocolate on children where it seems to have made them hyperactive. When studies have tried to duplicate this there has been very mixed results, not being able to show an actual link to consumption of these compounds and causes effects of ADHD symptoms. Of interest there is some indication that dark chocolate may actually help with these symptoms. It is likely that eating these three items in modest amounts will do not be a problem. Equally possible is that in some people they may have a specific intolerance that can be a problem. If in doubt, reduce the amount of consumption or do without for a while and assess the difference.

Sweeteners and ADHD

Artificial sweeteners became popular as low calorie diets began to emerge. Many products which are advertised as "Low Calorie" often contain artificial sweeteners which are non caloric. Aspartame has been on the market for over 30 years and has been a recipient of negative publicity. A warning exists for persons who have PKU (Phenylketoneuria) an inherited disorder usually diagnosed shortly after birth and treated. Estimates that 1 out of 10-15,000 infants may be born with this illness. If told you have this you would want to avoid phenylalanine, including Aspartame which is made from amino acids. If this is not a problem, Aspartame is 200 times more sweet than sucrose, and sucrose/sugars have been linked to worsening diabetes and excess weight. Reports of other reactions separate from that just mentioned are likely due to an intolerance. Again, moderation is advised, and if concerned try eliminating this from the diet and assess the results. Little scientific evidence exists from studies that show a correlation between sugar or aspartame and causes effects of ADHD.

Typical Diet Cola Label

Pesticides and ADHD

One thing you can say about pesticides is "They are Toxic." Every attempt is made to remove any pesticides from anything we are going to eat, how much remains can still be a concern. In a recent study published in Pediatrics, researchers at Harvard School of Public Health reported that out of a group of nearly 1200 youth aged 8-15, about 10% were diagnosed with ADHD. One of the tests given to all participants was a urine sample. The urine of the young people with ADHD showed a significantly higher level of organophosphates (pesticide commonly used as pesticide for tree and vine produce) than was seen in those without ADHD. It was uncommon for any of these participants to have lived in a rural or farm environment indicating that the source of this pesticide byproduct was from the food they had eaten.

Of course no one should volunteer for a study where they would agree to consume a pesticide to study the emergence or worsening of ADHD symptoms. Everyone agrees that ingestion of pesticides should be avoided. Retrospecttive studies such as the one above suggest students who had been diagnosed with ADHD tended to have a higher level of pesticide metabolites in their urine. At this time it appears that pesticides should be listed as one of the causes effects of ADHD. While attempts are made to minimize any amount of pesticide residue left on food or produce before taken to a store: Always be sure to wash all fruits and vegetables before eating. If in doubt, buy locally fresh fruit and produce. Organically grown produce promotes not using pesticides and chemicals in their growing process. This produce may be more expensive but well worth it if you suspect this may be a problem for you or your child. Click on ADHD Link to Pesticides to read more

Environmental Causes ADHD

Lead - In the past nearly all paint contained Lead. Those living in older buildings or attending schools that have been around since the 70's or before, and have not had new paint in years may be exposed to a higher risk for lead exposure or other toxins than those living or going to school in newer, freshly painted buildings. Some experts suggest that Lead should be listed as one of the causes effects of ADHD some children.

Media - Excessive exposure to electronic games, watching television and/or movies may have a negative effect on children's development, curbing the thinking portion of the child's brain. No one knows how much that exposure has to be, in fact it is likely to vary according to each child. If this is thought to be a part of the causes effects of ADHD symptoms in the child, then they are likely to respond to development thinking, exercise and brain processing therapy. Again, limit the amount of free time afforded to children to watch or play with media. Include plenty of exercise and thought provoking activities such as reading and others. Whether this can be listed as one of the probable causes effects of ADHD, getting more exercise and thought provoking activities as a young person is always good advice.

Summary Thoughts: Causes of ADHD

There are two main points to be made here. One: In the world we live in today, there is a tendency to believe there is a pill for every ill which can lead to potential overdiagnosis and over prescribing. By far most physicians will not do this. Second: Human nature causes us to want to believe that we don't have a genetic disorder, and any illness must be caused by some outside influence, toxin, or reaction to a foreign substance. Yes, there may be intolerances to substances that must be ruled out before an accurate diagnosis of ADHD can be made. If a link is found then work hard to remove that substance and in many cases you will see a reduction if not disappearance of symptoms. However, the strongest evidence for the cause effects of ADHD remains genetic, and removal of the items on this page from your diet at best will some improvement and at worst will show no improvement at all. So the best likely resolution will be to combine a safe, effective medication with appropriate therapy to overcome symptoms and learn best ways to thrive at home, work, school and at leisure.

Summary Thoughts: Effects of ADHD

When people think about ADHD they automatically think of the negative causes effects seen when a persons ADHD symptoms are unrecognized, untreated or inadequately treated. To understand how much ADHD symptoms can have a negative effect on people one must consider the three primary areas of a person's life and how the core symptoms of ADHD may impact those areas. Whether child or adult, the three primary areas of a person's life are: Home, School or Work, and Social areas. As you think about these three areas now include the two core symptoms of ADHD: ADHD Predominantly Inattentive and Hyperactivity:

What effects does Inattention have? Things get broken, items are misplaced or lost, schedules are not kept, promises are broken, goals are not reached or never made, accidents occur, things are never put away resulting in messes everywhere, careless mistakes are made, deadlines not met, papers not turned in, lack of promotions, poor grades, reputation as poor student or worker, forgetfulness: such as forgetting to take needed medication or seeing your therapist. What else can you think of?

What effects can Hyperactivity have? Can't sit still through a movie, show, or class, fidgety - disruptive, projects never get finished, rushing to complete things, multiple ideas but lack of focus, possible danger around power tools, disruptive in class or in meetings, inability to concentrate, starting multiple projects and not completing any on time, What else can you think of?

An equally big concern is the potential emotional impact of these symptoms. Imagine if you have been told your entire life that you are lazy, stupid or incompetent. Think about the relationship problems you might have with your teacher, boss, spouse or children. Trust can be broken here very easily. Emotionally patients with ADHD can be very frustrated, have low self esteem, have a lack of confidence, can have emotional swings, and even develop further mental and other health problems, like anxiety.

ADHD symptoms can lead to financial difficulties resulting from lack of promotions,loss of job, or not paying bills. Poor grades in school can lead to decreased income potential. Imagine after years of disappointment, being told that the causes effects of your ADHD symptoms is a medical illness that can be treated? A correct diagnosis of ADHD can be a life saver when you finally realize that you are not lazy and there is HOPE that with proper treatment these symptoms can be overcome.

Positive Attributes of Causes Effects of ADHD

When the negative effects of ADHD are under control there are many positive or bright traits that are often associated with persons who have ADHD. Never has IQ been associated with ADHD although the negative symptoms of ADHD can cause performance in school, work or home to be poor. In fact, many with ADHD when under control discover they are quite gifted! This underscores the importance of ruling out all possible causes and finding a combination of appropriate treatments and therapies that help the person overcome their ADHD symptoms.

  • Creative
  • Passionate
  • Energetic
  • Brain Stormer
  • Flexible to constant changes
  • Spontaneous
  • Imaginative
  • Driven
  • Fun to be with
  • Not equated with IQ, in fact some quite gifted

More information about Causes Effects of ADHD:

FDA Evaluations of Food Color - ADHD food link has been a hot topic for nearly 40 years now. The FDA has been keeping a close watch on this topic and in March of 2011 published its findings after an extensive review of all available published clinical studies and literature. This page summarizes this report for you and provides you with additional...

ADHD Pesticide Link? ADHD - Is there an ADHD Pesticides link? Obviously, nobody wants to come in close contact with pesticides, and in todays society there are great precautions to prevent ...

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