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Hyperactivity (ADHD) in children linked to food dyes.

Finally, scientists and academics are giving credence to the claims that food dyes may be a trigger for hyperactivity in children. This is not a huge surprise to many parents who have eliminated artificial colorings from their childrens’ diets and noticed an improvement in behavior, but why does it take so long for scientists to acknowledge what these parents have witnessed? What should parents do with this information? And what, if anything, will the FDA do?

An article published by the Associated Press on March 30th reports that several research studies published over decades show evidence that artificial food dyes used in many processed foods can cause hyperactivity in susceptible children (For full article, follow this link: FDA examines link between food dyes, hyperactivity).

This information was reported to an advisory committee of the FDA, who may advise the FDA to take action in the form of requiring improved labeling, increasing regulation of products containing food dyes, requesting more research, or they may take no action at all. Last year, the European Parliament began requiring products containing synthetic food colorings to be labeled, “consumption may have an adverse effect on activity and attention in children.”  Since the FDA is heavily influenced by lobbyists representing the U.S. food industry, it is safe to assume that extreme measures, such as banning certain food dyes, will not be taken. That is why it is important for parents and caregivers of children to be educated about the risks that these ingredients pose to childrens’ health and behavior.

So, as a parent, how can you be sure your child is not ingesting these ingredients? Current labeling laws require ingredients, including artificial dyes, to be listed on the food labels. Small businesses (such as mom and pop bakeries) may be exempt from such laws, so those seeking this information will need to ask. It is generally safe to assume that candy, frosting, and many processed snack foods, sugar cereals, and other junk foods contain artificial coloring. Obviously, these foods also contain other problem ingredients, such as refined sugar, fats, artificial flavorings, and preservative which may all compound the effects of the artificial dyes themselves.

A theory as to why dyes are a stand-out culprit linked to hyperactivity is that they are not properly metabolized in some children and can interfere with the brain’s chemistry. Children are more susceptible to the effects than adults, but adults may also benefit from removing these ingredients from their diets as well.

The first doctor to point out the link between ADHD and diet was pediatric allergist, Ben Feingold. He noticed huge improvements in his patients’ behavioral symptoms and cured many of their “ADHD” simply by having them follow his diet.  Besides improvements in behavior and learning disorders, many children who follow the Feingold diet will also have improvements in other health conditions, including ear infections, eczema, asthma, bedwetting, headaches, stomachaches, leg aches, constipation, diarrhea, sleep disturbances, and more. Most naturopathic doctors are familiar with the Feingold diet and its variations and can determine if it may be an appropriate treatment for your child’s symptoms as well as provide guidance to help your child follow the diet. More information about the Feingold diet can be found at the website:

If your child has been diagnosed with ADHD, behavioral issues, or has other chronic health issues, you should consider consulting a licensed naturopathic physician to discuss the least invasive treatment approach or options other than prescription medications. Be warned that following any restrictive diet is not easy and may require additional support. There are plenty of resources online for support and if you need extra help, a referral to a registered dietician experienced with the Feingold diet may also be of benefit.

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