Fitness coach Joe Wicks has come under fire after he suggested ADHD is potentially caused by ultra-processed foods in a recent interview. One of the UK’s leading charities helping those impacted by the condition, ADHD UK, shared a statement calling out the coach’s assumptions.

During an appearance on BBC Radio 5 Live’s Headliners podcast, Joe, also known as The Body Coach, claimed that the rise in childhood ADHD could be linked to poor diets. He speculated about how in 2024, he himself would’ve been diagnosed with ADHD, and how he thinks his behaviour was directly linked to what he ate at home during childhood.

Joe told the podcast: “Looking back now, there's no doubt the food I was eating was directly linked to my behaviour. I was never diagnosed with ADHD but I think nowadays it's this common thing that every child seems to be being diagnosed.

"And I think a lot of it can stem back to the diet and the foods that we're eating. So, when I think about my diet it was cereal for breakfast, concentrated juice from the milkman, Sunny Delight, Wagon Wheels, sandwiches just jam, Nutella, very little nutrients - pure sugar.”

Joe is known for his health and fitness work, having produced 11 cookbooks and creating The Body Coach app. As well as being the face of fitness during the Covid-19 lockdown with his live ‘PE with Joe’ videos.

He added: “The thing about ultra-processed foods is we can eat so much, so fast, because they're so palatable, we know these foods just taste amazing and we can consume so much of it. And then we're taught this is what kids eat, kids need these snacks in their lunchbox, this is what they have for dinner.

"So, we're kind of being confused and led down this path that adults have adult food and kids have kids menus and kids food. And that's the issue we've got because people are cooking less than ever and relying on these processed foods and it's a shame because kids are getting their energy sucked out of them.

“They're struggling at school with focus, they're gaining weight, and probably having really low energy crashes because these foods are just not going to give your children the energy they need to sustain a healthy day - a balanced level of energy.”

Joe’s comments attracted the attention of the founders of ADHD UK. The charity aims to help people navigate their life with ADHD, reduce the stigma that some attach to those with ADHD, build awareness, and undertake or fund research that will have a meaningful positive impact on those with ADHD.

In a post uploaded to the organisation’s Instagram page, the two co-founders of the charity shared their responses to Joe’s claims. Dr Max Davie, a consultant paediatrician with a specialism in ADHD and co-founder of ADHD UK, wrote: “There is absolutely no evidence that any particular diet, including ultra-processed food, has any causative role in the development of ADHD symptoms and to suggest otherwise is a gross distortion of the facts.”

Harry Shelford, CEO and co-founder of ADHD UK, added: “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 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.”

The Body Coach also said in the interview that he didn’t want to “demonise” the food which “got me through life”, but alleged that businesses selling ultra-processed foods are driven by profit and consumerism, not the health of people buying the products. Joe urged people to try and stay away from salty, sugary and fatty foods and get cooking in the kitchen.

He said that cooking food yourself can “completely turn around”. Joe added: “Ultimately, I believe, the more I talk about it, we can eat ourselves into depression. These ultra-processed foods, the way they interact with our body and our gut, there's now science to show that it's linked to the brain. We can eat ourselves into anxiety and depression.”

Joe Wicks has been approached for a comment.