Diet & Nutrition

Diet & Nutrition – Dyslexia

On this part of the site you will find comprehensive information on: Fatty Acids; Fatty Acids & Vegetarians; Iron Deficiencies; Zinc Deficiencies; What are Salicylates and Medication.

Over the last 20 years, we have seen a four-fold increase in dyslexia, dysgraphia and other SpLD’s. Is it because of our diets?  Take a look at the sections below.


For many years there has been a lot of research to show that in some cases dyslexia and other Specific Learning Difficulties (SpLD) could be due to a vitamin/mineral deficit.

Many scientific studies have shown that a nutritionally complete diet is necessary in the development of vision, learning ability and co-ordination. But, are our children getting a well balanced diet, or should they be taking supplements? Can taking supplements of fatty acids, zinc and iron cure dyslexia, dyspraxia, ADHD (ADD) and other SpLD’s?

Many parents who use these supplements say a resounding ‘yes’, and there now appears to be strong evidence to support this.

Fatty Acids & Dyslexia

Is a deficit in essential fatty acids to blame for the four-fold increase in dyslexia, dyspraxia, ADHD and other specific learning difficulties that we have seen over the last 20 years?

There has been a multitude of studies, which have shown that abnormal levels of fatty acids in the brain could be behind the practical and behavioural problems experienced by dyslexic children, as well as those with dyspraxia and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

Many research papers show that underachieving children, improved dramatically when their diets had been supplemented with fish oils. The fish oils contain omega-3 fatty acids that are essential for brain development and function but are mostly missing from modern processed foods.

There are several products available which contain fatty acids, and the following two appear most popular; are ‘Efalex’ and ‘Eye q Micro’. These products include long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids that seem to play an essential role in the development of the eye and brain especially vision, coordination, memory and concentration.

a natural approach to fatty acids

If you would like a more natural approach, the best way to consume your essential fatty acids is through your diet.

New research by the Institute of Grassland and Environmental Research in Wales, has shown that organic milk contains two-thirds more omega-3 essential fatty acids than ordinary milk.

People who do not want to take fish supplements can take Flax seeds or Flax seed oil; these are an excellent source of omega 3, (EFA’s). The body transforms it into EPA and the EPA into DHA.
Many foods contain essential fatty acids, (EFA’s), including:

Oily fish, for example:

*Fresh Tuna
*Turbot and

(Salmon has an enormous positive health benefit. It is rich in iron, packed with omega-3 fatty acids.)

Some studies suggest that salmon could boost babies’ intelligence when eaten during pregnancy. (You should only take supplements after checking with your doctor.)

Other Seafood, including:

* Eels
* New Zealand Green Lipped Mussels and
* Shark.

Vegetarian/Natural Oils etc

* Flax seeds or flax seed oil.
* Milk – especially organic milk.
* Pumpkin seeds & oil.
* Rapeseed oil (Canola oil).
* Soybeans & Soybean oil.
* Walnuts & Walnut oil.
* Wheat germ.

Iron Deficiencies & Dyslexia

There is research to indicate that even minor deficiencies in iron may weaken the immune system and impair general physical performance. Iron deficiency has also been implicated in a number of conditions including, learning disabilities and ADHD.

A study in France, in 2004, has identified a link between iron deficiency and ADHD. Fifty three children with ADHD were tested at the Child and Adolescent Psychopathology Department in the European Paediatric Hospital, Paris, and 84% of them had abnormal iron levels compared to only 18% in a control group. There appeared to be a link between the severity of iron deficiency and the severity of the ADHD symptoms. The study suggests that iron supplements may be useful in treating ADHD.

The best way to ensure an adequate supply of iron is through diet. A diet rich in iron-containing foods is an excellent way to ensure the correct level of iron is maintained.

what foods contain good sources of iron?

Iron can be found in many foods including:

* Liver
* Red meat
* Poultry
* Fish
* Eggs
* Nuts and seeds
* Beans
* Dark green leafy vegetables
* Bread and fortified breakfast cereals

how would I know if I was iron deficient?

The most common symptoms of iron deficiency are:

* Dizziness
* Lethargy
* Tiredness.

Care must be taken when using iron supplements because iron is not eliminated well by the body
and you could end up with having too much iron in the body – which can be toxic. Before taking supplements of
any kind you should always take advice from your medical practitioner.

Zinc Deficiencies & Dyslexia

Zinc is one of our body’s most important trace minerals and there have been some research studies to show that people with dyslexia and other learning difficulties have been linked to a deficiency of this mineral.

what does zinc do?

Zinc is an essential mineral that is plays an important part in the body’s immune system. Zinc also helps to maintain fertility in adults, growth in children and boosts the immune system. A shortage can affect the healing process because the body is unable to store it; therefore it is vital that we eat enough in our daily diet to stay healthy.

Whilst Zinc can be found in many foods, it can be so easily blocked or destroyed by various things including: tannin (found in; tea, coffee and alcohol) and food colourings and additives.

how would i know if someone was zinc deficient?

The most common symptoms of zinc deficiency are:

* Lack of appetite.
* Skin problems
* White marks on fingernails
* Dandruff
* Loss of taste sensation
* Tiredness.

where can zinc be found?

Zinc can be found in many foods including:

* Lean meat
* Liver
* Cheddar cheese
* Chicken
* Eggs
* Wholemeal breads, wheat germ
* Whole grain cereals
* Dried beans (black-eyed peas)
* Fish (particularly herrings)
* Oysters
* Tofu
* Seafood.

zinc: research and dyslexia

There is some research to show that children with dyslexia and ADHD are zinc deficient. However, this research is still in its infancy and a lot more work needs to be done to give us all a clearer picture.

fatty acids & vegetarians

If you are a vegetarian, you can still get your fatty acids from several different things, including:

* Flaxseed Oil
* Flaxseed, Ground
* Rapeseed Oil
* Walnuts
* Tofu.

Salicylates & Dyslexia

It was in the seventies when Dr. Ben Feingold, from California, came up with the idea that food was to blame for the rise in learning difficulties. The Feingold Hypothesis, as it is commonly referred to, claimed that many children with ADHD were sensitive to artificial food colours, flavours, preservatives and in particular to a group of chemicals called Salicylates. When Feingold analysed the diets of hyperactive children he found a lot of them had high levels of these chemicals.

Many food additives contain Salicylates, but they can also be found naturally occurring in food, such as: almonds, apples, brazil nuts, broccoli, carrots, grapes, oranges, tomatoes, yeast products, cola, coffee and tea. It has been shown that naturally occurring Salicylates are not as harmful as the artificial ones. Initially, it was thought that every hyperactive child was allergic to Salicylates, It has emerged that in about 70% of cases food intolerance or true food allergy is to blame.

Stop Harming Our Children (SHOC)

SHOC is an organisation that has been set up to try to inform people, especially parents of young children, about chemicals in our food.
Stop Harming Our Children

Medications & Dyslexia

There will always be debate over whether certain medications can help to control children with ADHD and some other specific learning difficulties (SpLDs).

Some children have had excellent results once the right medication has been sorted out. Medication where appropriate, should only be used with other forms of treatment, i.e., psychotherapy, behaviour therapy etc and if it is re-assessed regularly. The most common form of medication used is Methylphenidate (Ritalin) and Dextroamphetamine Dexedrine, Adderall).

It should be noted however, that there is still a lot of controversy over these medicines and used only as a last resort.

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