New research has found the Dr. Pepper may be a good option to help children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) focus.

Parents of children with ADHD may have known for years that soda can help curb behaviors in ADHD children. A quick search of the Internet shows a plethora of parents’ blogs touting how beneficial Dr. Pepper has been for their ADHD child. However, are their views valid?

According to various doctors, it’s not necessarily the Dr. Pepper that helps but more likely the caffeine. Caffeine acts as a stimulant when introduced to the body.

In children with ADHD, that stimulant tends to act as a behavioral control. What is interesting about the brand Dr. Pepper is that it is one of the most caffeine-rich drinks available on the market. It contains up to 10 teaspoons of sugar, as well as phosphoric acid, a compound that interferes with the absorption of calcium, magnesium and zinc — minerals that children with ADHD need the most.

So perhaps there is a bit more behind Dr. Pepper than any other caffeine-enriched beverage for ADHD children. Still, it appears that the largest benefit comes from the caffeine that is contained in Dr. Pepper.

Caffeine and its effects have been well studied and documented over the centuries. One researcher found that mythology describes how modern man first came to observe the effects of caffeine when his goat herd ate a coffee bush and became energized, not sleeping all night.

As bizarre as that seems, most of us know that caffeine works as a pick-me-up for most people. It operates slightly differently in people with ADHD.

In the mid-1970s through about the mid-1990s, researchers discovered some connection with caffeine and tobacco consumption as methods of treating ADHD, but they were ruled out as poor approaches. Later research suggests that some forms of caffeine and nicotine may actually provide partial remediation of ADHD symptoms because they can compensate the body for lower levels of mental arousal to enhance performance — i.e. focus, in individuals with ADHD.

Conventional treatments already capitalize on the use of psychostimulant medications to improve focus, so why not caffeine and nicotine? A pharmacological study of caffeine use specifically to treat ADHD failed significantly in effect. While it may have provided some relief, the results were not significant enough to tout its use as a regular treatment option.

It has been determined that prescription drugs meant for ADHD treatments provide far more relief and behavior control than caffeine; however, it was noted that caffeine is better than no treatment at all. Furthermore, caffeine may be the best option for adults with mild to moderate ADHD — especially for those who refuse to take traditionally prescribed ADHD medications.

ADHD affects approximately 5 percent of school-age children worldwide, and characteristics include hyperactivity, impulsivity and inattention. These impairments cause not only behavioral issues in the family and social arena but can reduce academic achievements that carry over into adulthood. That obviously leads to a lower quality of life.

If you have or suspect your child suffers from ADHD, you should reach out to your primary care physician. They can properly assess and diagnose you or your child and offer an appropriate course of treatment. That treatment may or may not include pharmaceuticals because each ADHD diagnosis is different.

For some, a change in diet is the key. And, perhaps that diet may lead to a regime of Dr. Pepper!

Nina Bell, Ph.D., MPH, is a public health professor with Ashford University and works in health promotions for the Meadville Family YMCA. She is a co-author of the book “Community and Public Health,” published by Bridgepoint Education Inc. You can email her at nina@w2w4life.com.

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