ADHD and Food Additives

Parents around the world can now say “See, I told you so!” A study released in Lancet and reported in the New York Times has shown a possible link between attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in children and common food additives.

This was a well run study that focused on a number of food colorings and the food preservative “sodium benzoate”, that are found in many foods. Children ages 3, 8 and 9 were given placebo drinks (no additives) and drinks that contained the additives. They controlled other aspects of their diet so they did not eat other preservatives. They also controlled the dose so it was equivalent to one or two pieces of candy a day. Parents and teachers were involved in rating the behavior for inattention and activity and no-one (including the researchers) knew which group was which. This is called “double blind” and is the best form of research.

They found that the kids who ingested the additives were more hyperactive and had lower attention spans. They could not pick out which additive (s) was the culprit but the results were pretty conclusive.

I have long wondered if “red dye #22” and other strange names found on food labels was a problem. Many parents have thought that sugar increases hyperactivity and prior studies have shown that sugar is not the problem. Sugar is natural, but preservatives, colors and additives are not, and they are found in so many products, including candy, cookies, crackers, canned foods and juices. If this is a link to the exploding incidence of ADHD we are on to something really important.

Congrats to the Brits Food standards Agency for for conducting this study. Why has it taken so long?

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