ADHD Home > Causes of ADHD

Genetic Causes

Attention disorders often run in families, so there are likely to be genetic influences. Studies indicate that 25 percent of the close relatives of children with ADHD also have it, whereas the rate is about 5 percent in the general population. Many studies of twins now show that the disorder has a strong genetic influence.

Does Brain Injury Cause ADHD?

One early theory believed that attention disorders were caused by brain injury. While some children who have suffered accidents leading to brain injury may show signs of behavior similar to that of ADHD, only a small percentage of children with the condition have suffered a traumatic brain injury.

Do Food Additives and Sugar Cause ADHD?

It has been suggested that refined sugar or food additives may be possible causes of ADHD, or that the symptoms of ADHD are made worse by these products. However, research has not proven this to be true. In 1982, the National Institutes of Health held a scientific consensus conference to discuss this issue. It was found that dietary restrictions helped about 5 percent of children with ADHD, mostly young children who had food allergies.
A more recent study on the effect of sugar on children, using sugar one day and a sugar substitute on alternate days (without parents, staff, or children knowing which substance was being used) showed no significant effects of sugar on behavior or learning.
In another study, children whose mothers felt they were sugar-sensitive were given aspartame as a substitute. Half the mothers were told their children were given sugar, half that their children were given aspartame. The mothers who thought their children had received sugar rated them as more hyperactive than the other children and were more critical of their behavior.
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Last reviewed by: Arthur Schoenstadt, MD
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