ADHD Linked To Food Additives.

ADHD Linked To Food Additives.

Artificial coloring and preservatives in food can increase hyperactivity in kids, a new British study shows.

Researchers from the University of Southampton in the U.K. evaluated the effects of drinks containing artificial colors and additives on 3-year-old and 8- and 9-year-old British kids and found that the additives made hyperactive behavior worse — at least up to middle childhood.

The link between such food additives and hyperactivity has been long debated. The importance of our work is that effects have been found for 3-year-old and for 8- and 9-year-old children in the general population, not just for those diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), says Jim Stevenson, PhD, professor of psychology at the university and a co-author of the study, published online Sept. 6 in The Lancet. The size of the effects is similar to that found for children with ADHD.

But a U.S. expert said that scientific evidence overall does not point to a definitive link between additives and hyperactivity. He said it is premature, based on these study results, to suggest a public policy change. But the U.K. Food Standards Agency, which funded the study, has already revised its advice to parents about what to feed their children.
The U.K. Study

The researchers evaluated the effects of different cocktails of beverages containing artificial food colors and other additives in 153 3-year-olds and 144 8- and 9-year-olds from the general population. In all, 267 of the 297 children completed the study and were evaluated by teachers and parents for behavior changes after drinking the trio of beverages.

The children drank two types of beverages with food additives commonly found in sweets, beverages, and other foods, and then a placebo drink (one with no additives). One mix had artificial colorings, including sunset yellow (also called E110), carmoisine (E122), tartrazine (E102), ponceau 4R (E124), and the preservative sodium benzoate. Another beverage mix included the current average daily consumption of food additives by the two age ranges of children and included quinoline yellow (E104), allura red (E129) , sunset yellow, carmoisine, and sodium benzoate.

Teachers and parents evaluated behaviors after the children drank each type of beverage, and the older children also were tested on their attention spans.
Study Findings

The older children’s behavior was adversely affected by both of the mixtures with additives, compared with placebo, Stevenson’s group found.

The younger children had more hyperactivity with the first mixture compared with placebo, but their responses to the second beverage varied greatly.
Perspective and Reaction

About 2 million children in the U.S. have ADHD, according to the National Institutes of Health.

The link between food additives and hyperactivity in children has been debated for many decades, says Roger Clemens, DrPH, a professor of pharmacology and pharmaceutical sciences at the University of Southern California School of Pharmacy and a spokesman for the Institute of Food Technologists.

More than 30 years ago, a physician named Ben Feingold proposed a diet free of additives and other substances to calm behavior in children.

The U.K. study findings about the adverse effects of food additives are narrower than those found by Feingold, Stevenson tells WebMD. "Feingold made a very wide-ranging claim about many additives and also salicylates (a group of chemicals related to aspirin but also found in foods) adversely affecting children’s behavior," he says. We have shown an adverse effect for a specific set of food colors plus sodium benzoate, a preservative.

While the most recent study has found a link, Clemens contends that "the totality of the evidence indicates food additives, such as those cited in the [Lancet] paper, do not contribute to hyperactivity. While this study finds a link, most recent studies do not."

Stevenson disagrees. The better studies conducted since the mid-1980s confirm that the removal of certain food additives can reduce hyperactivity in children diagnosed with ADHD, he tells WebMD.

Children’s reactions to diet do vary, Clemens tells WebMD, and some children may react to additives and colors.

What’s a Parent to Do?

Is it worth trying to remove the additives from a child\’s diet? It may not hurt, but it may not help, Clemens says.

Meanwhile, the U.K. Food Standards Agency issued new advice after the study was published, advising parents of children who show signs of hyperactivity to cut out the additives studied in the recent research.

Changing the diet is not a cure-all, Stevenson says.

And in a related article from The Horizon Newspaper (Pueblo, CO)

Food dyes listed by a color + number (such as Red 40 and Yellow 5) are made from crude oil, and have been linked to many health problems, including headaches, asthma, DNA damage, and cancer, as well as learning and behavior problems. Since natural colorings are available, the dyes are not necessary.

Dr. Jim Stevenson, a professor at Southampton University in England who led the most recent study published in the September 2007 issue of the leading British medical journal., The Lancet, warns that these additives can affect all children, not just those with ADHD. He cautions that, like the lead which used to be in gasoline and paint, the additives can lower a child’s IQ score.

Before you conclude your child has a disorder, says Kathy Bratby, M.S.N., R.N.. clinical assistand professor at the State University of New York at Stony Brook School of Nursing, take a look at what he or she is eating.

Here is how to make your own natural food coloring

All following are based on coloring about 1 cup of white cake icing. To color other items, experiment with amounts of natural dyes until you achieve the color you want.

Examples of what you will need are

A seive

Enjoy yellow. For yellow, add 1 tsp of stale turmeric . Turmeric is often used to give vegan puddings and tofu scrambles that eggy shade. This is a good use for turmeric that’s past its prime, since stale turmeric is fairly flavor neutral.

Mash the juice from 14, fresh or thawed, frozen raspberries directly into the icing using a sieve to create blush or pale pink

Using a fork, mash 1/2 a small avocado until creamy to get pastel green. Mix this into your icing. [The avocado makes your icing thinner, but in a fluffy, pleasant way. ]

For raspberry purple, using a sieve, mash the juice from 14 fresh or thawed frozen blueberries and 12 fresh or thawed frozen blackberries directly into the icing.

Experiment and color your world! Other natural sources of color include carrots, beet juice and chlorella.

Don’t forget to taste your food as you color it. Since these natural dyes are also foods in their own right, adding too much can impart their flavor into the icing. You will need to find the right balance between color and neutral flavor.

And you guessed it, greed and corruption is why especially the United States hasn’t gone to a healthier standard for the foods.

Now then with this mishmash I have put together, you should also look at not just children, but others in your family as well or your neighbor or a friend who for some reason keeps getting sick and the food looks normal like what you would eat but right now you have no problems nor may you have problems in the future.


Horizon Newspaper Pueblo, CO
WebMD Health News –
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD
The Feingold Association –
The Cooking Inn –


One Response to “ADHD Linked To Food Additives.”

  1. Shula Edelkind Says:

    Very nice suggestions for coloring icing. For those wanting to improve their diet, may I suggest visiting the Feingold website at – their materials make it more possible and certainly more pleasant to remove the worst of the additives without having to completely change your lifestyle.

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