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Adverse Effects of Artificial Food Coloring on Children

written by: Rafael • edited by: Rhonda Callow • updated: 4/30/2009

Hyperactivity, attention deficit and behavioral problems are all claimed to occur in children because of the ingestion of food additives and, more specifically, food dyes. Learn about the effect that food coloring agents may have on children's behavior.

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    There is a popular saying that states that we are what we eat. This may be more than true for food additives and food coloring since they seem to have specific effects to our health, especially for kids. There have been reports of allergies due to food-coloring agents but probably the best scientifically proved effect of food dyes on children has to do with their effect on behavior. Past and recent research supports a definite link between artificial food dyes and hyperactivity in children.

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    Food Dyes and ADHD in Children

    In a research study, titled: “Food additives and hyperactive behavior in 3-year-old and 8/9-year-old children in the community: a randomised, double-blinded, placebo controlled trial”, published in the prestigious scientific journal The Lancet, British scientists concluded that “Artificial colours in the diet result in increased hyperactivity in 3-year-old and 8/9-year-old children in the general population.” Food industries defend themselves saying that they are using FDA approved GRAS (Generally Recognized as Safe) food additives.

    The idea that food additives (and more specifically food dyes) could affect children's behaviour is not new. In fact, in the 1970s, Dr. Benjamin Feingold, published the Feingold diet in which he claimed that by removing more than 300 food additives from the diet, hyperactivity in children could be cured. Many studies had examined the relationship between food additives and behavioral issues in children with some inconclusive results.

    In 2004, Dr. David Schab claimed that food dyes will likely cause what he termed "neurobehavioral toxicity," possibly responsible for behavioural problems. He made these claims after reviewing the scientific literature published in regard to hyperactivity for the past 30 years.

    As a result of these research studies that implicate food-coloring agents in the development of AHDH, the British Government took action on July 8, 2008 and the European Parliament has voted in favor of legislation that forces food companies to label foods containing the implicated food dyes. Moreover, The Food Standards Agency (FSA) now is recommending eliminating food dyes from the diets of patients with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).

    Although there is not a clear cut answer to the question of whether food dyes definitely causes AHDH, many believe that there is a link, especially parents of children who have ADHD and other behavioural problems. Perhaps it is a good idea to start avoiding ingesting excessive amounts of food additives at an early age.