Food Dye And ADHD

Is There A Connection?

Is there a connection between food dye and ADHD?

In 2011, the Center For Science In The Public Interest released a research report that found that the artificial food dyes contained in many popular foods such as children's cereals, processed macaroni and cheese, most candy, Jello, Pop Tarts, Doritos, Cheetos, etc. can worsen some children's behavior, specifically increasing hyperactivity.

Historically, the FDA (Food And Drug Administration) has denied any claims that artificial food dyes and artificial food preservatives are linked to Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).

However, at the urging of the findings by Public Interest, the FDA acknowledged that food dyes may affect children with respect to symptoms of hyperactivity, albeit "in a limited way."

The Research

In 2007, the British medical journal The Lancet published a study of 3 to 9 year old children by Britain's Food Standard's Agency that found that the consumption of foods containing food dyes can increase hyperactivity in children.

In another British study, researchers found a that a diet completely free of artificial food colorings and artificial food preservatives reduced hyperactive behaviors in preschool-age children

In 2009, the Mayo Clinic reported that while there is no current definitive causal evidence linking food dye and ADHD in all children, there are an increasing number of research studies linking certain food colorings and artificial food preservatives to hyperactive behavior in children.

Food Dyes That Contribute The Most To ADHD Symptoms

food dye and adhd

Specifically, the research studies are similar in their findings regarding which specific artificial food dyes, colorings, and preservatives may contribute to hyperactivity. They are FD&C Yellow No. 6 (sunset yellow E110), D&C Yellow No. 10 (quinoline yellow), FD&C Yellow No. 5, FD&C Red No. 40, allura red (E129), carmoisine (E122), tartrazine (E102), ponceau 4R (E124), and sodium benzoate.

As a result of this research, the European Union considers food dyes unnecessary, and EU laws mandate that warning labels be placed on foods with artificial dyes, coloring, and additives.

Helpful Tip: It is a good habit to get into checking food labels while grocery shopping in order to best avoid these particular harmful ingredients. You may be shocked to discover just how prevalent these dyes are in many of your child's favorite foods.

Foods To Avoid To Help Reduce ADHD Symptoms

I always tell my patients, eat a rainbow diet, but make sure it's a natural rainbow diet. This means skip the fluorescent, unnaturally colored Kool-Aid, Cheeto's, and Skittles and replace them with brightly colored fresh fruits and vegetables.

The bottom line is, ADHD or no ADHD, food dyes are found in the most unhealthy of foods, and we do ourselves and our children an enormous benefit by avoiding them.

What do you have to lose? Even if you are skeptical about food dye and ADHD, there's no harm in adopting a healthier diet, which research has also been shown to reduce ADHD symptoms (See ADHD Diet).

Therefore, whether you are a parent of a child with ADHD or an adult ADHD sufferer, eating healthier is a win-win situation.

My Own Anecdotal (Unscientific) Evidence About Food Dye And ADHD

Both my son with ADHD and my ADHD patients report feeling better, and behave better, when they reduce their intake of over-processed, unnaturally colored foods. After a long holiday from artificial food dyes, my attended a birthday party where he ate pizza and cake. The next 24 hours were hectic as he was bouncing off of the walls and unable to calm down.

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