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The Effects of Red 40 Dye on Children with ADHD

written by: Finn Orfano • edited by: Elizabeth Wistrom • updated: 7/23/2010

Red 40 dye, an artificial coloring that is added to many food and drink products, has been linked to ADHD and found to potentially increase hyperactivity and irritability in children. Those who are sensitive to the red 40 dye can sometimes benefit from having the additive removed from their diet

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    Red 40 Dye and Hyperactivity

    Red 40 dye is an ingredient that is used to add artificial color to foods, beverages, and some cold medications. While red 40 dye is approved by the FDA, many parents of children with ADHD have had to limit or remove the dye from their children's diets due to its effects on behavior. Red 40 dye has been linked to ADHD and has been shown to be a trigger for hyperactive behavior in children who consume it regularly, and exacerbate the negative traits that are associated with ADHD. Common symptoms that children who are sensitive to red 40 dye experience include severe temper tantrums, fidgeting, aggression, inability to focus, and nervousness. The dye has also been linked to physical symptoms such as stomachaches and headaches.

    Red 40 dye, a food additive that has an orange-red tone, can be difficult to avoid because it is not only found in red food or drink items, but can also be combined with dyes of other colors. Common children's snacks such as Doritos. colored Goldfish crackers, and M & Ms all contain red 40, as does Kool-Aid, fruit punch, and some bubble gums. Parents of ADHD children who becoming increasingly hyperactive after ingesting red 40 may see a significant improvement in behavior after the dye is removed from their diet.

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    Monitoring Intake of Red 40 Dye

    There are several ways in which parents can be proactive in monitoring their children's intake of red 40. One way is by carefully reading the list of ingredients on all food labels in order to ensure that red 40 dye is not present. Some ADHD children may not react favorably at first when giving up some of their favorite snacks and drinks, but parents can make the process easier by offering alternative treats that are free of the dye. Other caregivers such as teachers, relatives, and babysitters should be informed about the behavioral risks for children with ADHD who consume red 40 dye. Also, it is a good idea for children with ADHD to limit their intake of other artificial food dyes as well, as they can also contribute to hyperactive behavior.

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    Reference Links

    1. http://www.associatedcontent.com/article/131963/is_the_red_40_food_dye_additive_having.html?cat=5

    2. http://pediatrics.about.com/od/nutrition/a/0608_food_clrng.htm


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