This is not new news, but it was reported on our local news recently that artificial food additives and coloring consumption affects children's behavior. In fact, in the 1970s, allergist Benjamin Feingold, MD, advocated a diet free of more than 300 food additives to treat hyperactivity, although his research had not been substantiated until now. Whether this information is new or not, the old adage "You are what you eat" rings true when it comes to artificial ingredients. What is new information is that this has finally been proven scientifically.
It is not only children with ADHD who are affected by additives, but all children's behavior changes as a result of these substances. According to a 2004 WebMD report,
British researchers found removing food additives from the diet of a group of 3-year-olds caused a reduction in the children's hyperactive behavior reported by their parents. And when the food colorings and preservatives were added back into the children's diets, the parents reported an increase in hyperactivity.
Based on these parental reports of behavioral changes, researchers estimate that if the current 15% of children thought to have hyperactivity-related behavior problems were to go on an additive-free diet, the prevalence could be reduced to 6%.
"All children had small shifts in their behavior in the same direction when exposed to the additives," Warner tells WebMD. "If the children are already normal, then that's not a major issue. But if they've already got rather difficult behavior, that might be the final straw that makes it totally unacceptable."
The clinical results of this study did not match parental reports, so researchers were careful about making claims regarding additives and behavior; however, as a parent, the results speak volumes to me.
Finally, the scientists have proven this link!
The research, which was financed by the British Food Safety Agency and published online by the British medical journal the Lancet, presents regulators with a number of dilemmas: Should foods containing preservatives and artificial colors carry special warning labels? Should some additives be prohibited entirely? Should schools remove foods with additives from school cafeterias?
The researchers note that overactive children have a harder time learning.
"A mix of additives commonly found in children's foods increases the mean level of hyperactivity," wrote the researchers, who were led by Jim Stevenson at the University of Southampton. "The finding lends strong support for the case that food additives exacerbate hyperactive behaviors (inattention, impulsivity, and overactivity) at least into middle childhood."
The Lancet study focuses on sodium benzoate, a common preservative, and a variety of colorings.
Children should not drink sodas, which contain sodium benzoate. Not only will children's behavior improve by avoiding this substance, but childhood obesity rates would decline by eliminating soda from their diets.
In a related story, microwave popcorn may be toxic. Workers who make the snack are developing "popcorn" lung" from the chemical diacetyl used to make the buttery flavor. When heated, this chemical produces a toxic and lethal gas. Manufacturers insist the risk is only in the factory, but once again, I am thankful my family eats only natural,organic foods.