The amount of kids with anxiety and hyperactivity issues has been rising steadily for many years, and while many are misdiagnosed as having ADHD, many kids and teens do struggle with this disorder and also feel the effect of GAD and other anxiety issues as well. As a teacher, it was usually pretty easy to spot the kids that struggled to pay attention and sit still or who were overly anxious and many parents tried to help their children by changing their diet instead of putting them on medication. Most of the time, there was a vast improvement in a few months.

Diet plays an enormous role in how well our bodies function, and I’m not just talking about physical functioning. A proper diet also helps mental functioning as well. Recently, a study conducted through the University of Pittsburg found that increased hyperactivity and anxiety in teens may be linked with an omega-3 deficiency in their diet and in their parent’s diet as well, and it also may affect their cognition and memory.

Bita Moghaddam, the lead author of the study and professor of neuroscience in the Kenneth P. Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences, says that "We have always assumed that stress at this age is the main environmental insult that contributes to developing these conditions in at-risk individuals but this study indicates that nutrition is a big factor, too.”

By using rats to simulate the omega-3 deficiencies found in many teens, researchers were able to see that the deficiency caused the rat’s brain to change particularly in the areas responsible for decision making and habit forming. The changes are compounded by the fact that many teens are struggling with a second generation deficiency, which means their parents were omega-3 deficient when they conceived their child and continued to have a deficiency while raising their children on food that was woefully short on omega-3 fatty acids.

Unfortunately, the deficiency only seems to be getting worse. Many foods that were once rich in omega-3 are no longer an efficient source of the fatty acids. For example, beef was once fed only on grass, which is a good source of omega-3, but in the 60s and 70s they moved to grain instead of grass which makes the meat no longer full of the essential fatty acids.

To counter deficiency, try cooking foods that you know are full of omega-3s like fresh fish and eggs, grass-fed beef, many different types of nuts, and turkey.

Source: University of Pittsburgh (2013, July 29). Diets lacking omega-3s lead to anxiety, hyperactivity in teens: Generational omega-3 deficiencies have worsening effects over time. ScienceDaily.

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