The ADHD Food Link

Foods That Contribute To ADHD Symptoms


Is the ADHD food link fact or fiction? On 3/30/11, an FDA panel claimed that there is no sufficient evidence to link commonly used artificial food dyes and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.

What is significant, however, is that it was the first time the FDA has acknowledged that food dyes may affect children "in a limited way" with respect to hyperactivity.

This ruling comes despite claims by Jeff Cronin of the Center for Science in the Public Interest that the evidence that artificial food dyes worsen some children's behavior and can increase hyperactivity in some children is "pretty convincing."

Artificial dyes and additives are added to many common and popular foods such as Jello, Cheetos, Doritos, cereals such as Lucky Charms, Pop-Tarts, candy bars such as Butterfingers, and many others.

In Europe, for example, not only are such dyes considered unnecessary, but EU laws mandate that a warning be placed on foods with artificial dyes, coloring, and additives.

In addition, the Mayo Clinic reports that while there's no definitive evidence that food additives cause ADHD in all children, an increasing number of studies indicate that certain food colorings and preservatives may cause or worsen hyperactive behavior in some children.

Specifically, artificial colorings that may contribute to exacerbating hyperactivity in children include sodium benzoate, FD&C Yellow No. 6 (sunset yellow), D&C Yellow No. 10 (quinoline yellow), FD&C Yellow No. 5, and FD&C Red No. 40.

adhd food link

The ADHD Food Link: The Bottom Line

It is important to understand that while correlation does not equal causation, there is certainly some intriguing evidence indicating a possible link between ADHD and the chemicals we pump into our foods.

As a result, for me, as a doctor who specializes in treating ADHD and as the mother of a son with ADHD, the answer is more clear. My own anecdotal experience of witnessing my sons behavior after consuming foods with these chemicals, though not scientific, is reason enough not allow those foods in the home.

Even if certain additives do not explicitly cause ADHD, they are still unhealthy for children and adults. In addition, a healthy, balanced diet free from these chemicals is shown to relieve symptoms of ADHD. 

For additional information regarding the connection between ADHD and food, see the following articles: ADHD Diet, healthy ADHD Foods, ADHD And Gluten, the Gluten Free Diet for ADHD.

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