Neuroscientist says 'superfood' can reduce ADHD symptoms and improve sleep in children

Toddler girl is drinking milk in living room
Kefir is a fermented food usually made from milk - a bit like yoghurt -Credit:Getty

A health expert has explained findings from a recent study that claims one particular 'superfood' can reduce symptoms of ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) in children. Clinical neuroscientist, Dr Miguel Toribio-Mateas, says kefir, which can be bought at most supermarkets, can be linked to gut health and the neurological condition.

Appearing on Alex’ Partridge’s ADHD Chatter Podcast, Dr Mateas said: “The food is called kefir. And I’ve actually done some research on it myself as a scientist, looking at the effects on the gut, and then how the effects in what’s going on in somebody’s gut with ADHD transfers to the brain. It can have a beneficial impact on their ADHD symptoms.”

The expert added: “We’ve looked at young adults, children and young adults, to 18, and we gave them kefir for six weeks, as well as very basic dietary guidelines. Basically, along the lines of do not eat ultra-processed foods.

“So fresh food as much as possible and have 200ml of kefir a day. We noticed improvements in impulsivity, improvements in hyperactivity, and also better sleep.”

The research, published in the BMJ Open journal, aimed to explore how kefir impacts ADHD symptomatology, sleep, attention and gut microbiomes in children diagnosed with ADHD. For six weeks, the participants were given a kefir daily in a double-blind study.

The participants were also told to stay away from foods that were “most likely to provoke sensitivities”. They were told to opt for whole-food items such as lamb, chicken, potatoes, rice, bananas, and apples too.

The study looked at whether “compromised” gut microbiomes may lead to certain bad bacteria, viruses and fungi in the digestive tract, which risk being absorbed in the bloodstream. This would then be carried to the brain, which could ultimately affect someone’s behaviour.

The study recommended: “We propose that kefir consumption may enhance composition of the gut microbiota in children with ADHD and could lead to a reduction in ADHD symptoms and improvements in sleep.” It also noted that the study will further advance research into the impact of kefir on children with ADHD.

What is kefir?

According to Webmd, Kefir is a drink made from the fermented milk from a cow, goat, or sheep. You can buy kefir at grocery and health food stores or make your own.

Kefir contains around 60 unique species of probiotics, “good bacteria” that improve gut health and may aid in your digestive processes. The most common are lactobacillus, lactococcus, streptococcus, and leuconostoc.