Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Educating the Media

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if the media was a source of information based on fact and evidence? If your child had attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (AD/HD) or any other disorder, you could turn to your preferred media outlet—newspaper, Web site, television or radio—and find stories grounded in reliable, accurate, science-based information. When reporters do their research responsibly, instead of sensationalizing, trivializing, opining or theorizing, the public good is served and awareness increases. When they don’t, we at CHADD spend another week trying to increase the media’s awareness of the importance of doing its job more responsibly.

Here’s a roundup of some of the reports involving AD/HD over the last couple of weeks…

Dietary interventions and AD/HD
A number of media outlets recently published stories asserting that AD/HD can be treated through dietary interventions. These stories relied exclusively on controversial books and information and did not report on what the science shows to be an effective treatment for the disorder.

There are two types of dietary interventions: one adds particular foods, vitamins or other "nutritional supplements" to one's regular diet, and the other removes or eliminates certain foods or nutrients from one's diet." The most publicized of these diet elimination approaches is the Feingold Diet. This diet is based on the theory that many children are sensitive to dietary salicylates and artificially added colors, flavors, and preservatives, and that eliminating the offending substances from the diet could improve learning and behavioral problems, including AD/HD.

Despite a few positive studies, most controlled studies do not support this hypothesis. At least eight controlled studies since 1982, the latest being 1997, have found validity to elimination diets in only a small subset of children "with sensitivity to foods." While the proportion of children with AD/HD who have food sensitivities has not been empirically established, experts believe that the percentage is small.

There is stronger published research about the advantages of one dietary supplement—Omega 3 fatty acid—for a variety of good health promotion, including conditions related to AD/HD.

Parents who are concerned about diet sensitivity should have their children examined by a medical professional for food allergies. Research has also shown that the simple elimination of sugar or candy does not affect AD/HD symptoms, despite a few encouraging reports. For more information on these treatment options, click here.

We at CHADD offer extensive science-based information about AD/HD on our Web site and on the Web site of the National Resource Center on AD/HD (NRC). CHADD also produces a rich package of benefits for its members.

Paris Hilton & AD/HD
Who’d have thought that as CEO of CHADD, I’d get such an education in pop culture. But that’s exactly what happened recently when word began to spread through the media that reality star and hotel heiress Paris Hilton has AD/HD. I must admit that I typically don’t keep up with Ms. Hilton; however, it is important to keep up with issues when AD/HD is mentioned. These reports have been unsubstantiated, but we encourage anyone who thinks (s)he has the disorder to seek a full evaluation from a medical professional. As I mentioned in a recently released statement, we want to emphasize that AD/HD should never be used as an excuse for bad behavior. We wish Ms. Hilton the best of luck as she moves on with her life.

And on to other news that is certainly fit to print…

I hope you have registered for CHADD’s annual conference, scheduled for Nov. 7-10, in Crystal City, Va. I have previously highlighted the attendance of James Carville and Ty Pennington’s mom at our 20th anniversary gala dinner celebration. Radio and television sports announcer Johnny Holliday has agreed to serve as our master of ceremonies. Johnny is the father of a young woman with AD/HD.

We will continue to arrange interesting speakers for the conference. We hope that you will peruse the conference section of our Web site to learn more about the offerings at this year’s event and to register to attend. We welcome everyone, including members of the media.

Who knows—while it will be held in Washington, you may even see Paris there! Stay tuned…


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