Joe Wicks clarifies controversial comments about ADHD being linked to diet

joe wicks adhd diet
Joe Wicks clarifies his comments about ADHD + dietDave Benett

Joe Wicks has apologised after he was criticised for suggesting the surge in childhood ADHD is connected to ultra-processed foods.

Speaking on the BBC Radio 5 Live Headliners podcast, the 38-year-old fitness influencer – also known as The Body Coach – said that he believes that if he were a child in 2024, he likely would have been diagnosed with ADHD, and he thinks that his poor behaviour at school was directly linked to his sugar-heavy diet at home.

Yesterday, the fitness coach, who is expecting his fourth child with wife Rosie, addressed the backlash for the first time. Speaking on a video posted to Instagram, he said his comments were taken out of context, and he had mistakenly missed out a crucial word when talking about cases of ADHD.

He said: ‘I had a conversation on a podcast – really nice, about children's mental health, around food, nutrition, you know, all the things I'm passionate about. And the headline that basically came out of that was “Joe Wicks says that ADHD is caused by poor diet”.

'Now, I know that's not factual, that isn't true – and I believe that. I never have, I never would say that. It's a neurodivergent disorder, which affects the brain. Lots of factors involved. I do believe food has a massive impact. Whether you have ADHD or not, I think it really impacts our mood and our ability to sit still and focus, and even our energy and our mental health, it has a massive impact.'

Joe, who has written 11 cookbooks which have sold close to 2million copies worldwide, added: ‘In hindsight, listening back to it a couple of times, I do wish I'd said “misdiagnosed” because the article says obviously, I said many children are being diagnosed with ADHD and it can stem back to our diet. What I mean is, that many children are being misdiagnosed. I do believe that's happening around the world.

'So, you know, I do think that we need to look at our diet, and I'm passionate about that. And I'll always promote healthy home-cooked food for ourselves and our children. But I am really sorry that it's been taken out of context.’

Wicks urged his IG followers to listen to the podcast and the whole conversation, adding that his goal – from the very beginning – has been to get ‘families and kids moving, eating well, feeling good, feeling happier’.

‘When I share things about weaning, around cooking – anything I'm sharing is to try and inspire and uplift and make them feel good. It's never to put people down,’ he added.

‘I wanted to send this video out to the world so that you know that, actually, it wasn't what I said or meant. In hindsight, I wish I'd said children are being misdiagnosed because I do believe a lot of children are being misdiagnosed with ADHD. And that can stem back to our diet and the foods we're eating. So I hope you know anything I ever share in this world is always from a positive place, that I'm never trying to put people down. That's not who I am. So I hope that helps explain things. Sorry if you've been upset or offended. And I hope that you continue to find my content inspiring, whether that's recipes or workouts for you and the kids, because I'll be doing it for years to come. Lots of love to you all. Thanks for listening. And again, I'm sorry if I've upset you today. Take care.’

Leading ADHD charity issued a statement on Joe Wicks’ comments

In response to his comments, ADHD UK, a leading ADHD charity, released a statement last week.

It read: ‘It was really disappointing to hear Joe Wicks linking a processed food diet to having ADHD. Joe is a force for so much good but on this he is abjectly wrong. His core point that a good diet can help people in so many ways is absolutely correct. But a diet good, bad, or ugly won’t make you have ADHD or make you not have ADHD.

‘To suggest for ADHD that swapping sweets or [burgers] for a plate of veggies is all that is needed to “fix” someone with ADHD is both wrong and damaging. It’s misleading and undermines the very real difficulty of living with the life-long condition ADHD.’

In addition to the statement released by Charity ADHD UK, the charity also released a message from Harry Shelford, CEO and co-founder of ADHD UK, who said the comments from Wicks were ‘disappointing’.

The CEO added: ‘To suggest for ADHD that swapping sweets or burgers for a plate of veggies is all that is needed to “fix” someone with ADHD is both wrong and damaging. It’s misleading and undermines the very real difficulty of living with the life-long condition ADHD.’

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