It’s About Time


The immature side of me wants to say “neiner, neiner, neiner” and “I told you so!” But instead I will clap my hands and be thankful that finally some scientific studies that corroborate what observant parents have known for a long time and that is that food additives (food coloring and flavoring) can cause far reaching effects in children’s behavior and health. This study simply addresses a short term exposure of 6 weeks and explicity examines hyperactivity but it is a good start.

Here is the article on the study:

New study links food additives to hyperactivity in children
23 hours ago
A cocktail of artificial colours and the commonly-used
preservative sodium benzoate are linked to hyperactivity in children, according to a ground-breaking study published Thursday by The Lancet.
The implications are far-reaching, say the investigators, who suggest that by
vetting their child’s diet, parents have a simple tool to help them tackle
hyperactive behaviour.
Researchers at Southampton University recruited 153 local three-year-olds and 144 children aged eight or nine and assigned them to either of two groups.

One group received an ordinary fruit juice and the other was given a drink
identical in look and taste that contained common commercial additives. Both
drinks were supplied to parents in identical, sealed anonymous bottles.

The “additives” group itself was split into two batches. Some children were given “Mix A,” a drink which contained artificial colourings typically found in a couple of 56-gramme (two-ounce) bags of sweets.

Others were given “Mix B” which had a higher level of colourings, equivalent
(in the dosage for the eight-year-olds) to consuming the additives in four
such bags of sweets.

Both mixes had the same amount of sodium benzoate.

Before the six-week trial began, the researchers asked parents and teachers
to assess the child for overactive, impulsive and inattentive behaviour — the
hallmarks of hyperactivity.

A third yardstick was given by trained observers (in fact, psychology
graduates), who sat discreetly in the classrooms and noted each child’s behaviour according to an international set of measures.

For the first week of the trial, the children followed their typical diet.
After that, sweets and drinks with additives were withdrawn, and parents were asked to substitute with the trial drink instead.

The amount of the drink given to the child was in proportion to the amount of
artificial colouring removed from their usual diet. The parents did not know
whether the drink was Mix A, Mix B or the placebo.

Six weeks later, the children were assessed again for hyperactivity.
Mix A had a “significantly adverse” effect on the three-year-olds, although
Mix B made no difference on this group. In the older children, both Mix A and
Mix B had a strong effect.

“Overall, children who took the mix moved about 10 percent closer to the
definition of being hyperactive,” lead author Jim Stevenson, a professor of
psychology at the university, told AFP.

“We now have clear evidence that mixtures of certain food colours and
benzoate preservative can adversely influence the behaviour of children,” said Stevenson.

“However, parents should not think that simply taking these additives out of
food will prevent all hyperactive disorders. We know that many other
influences are at work, but this at least is one a child can avoid.”

The first caution about food additives and their impact on child health were
made more than three decades ago, but evidence to give flesh to this warning has been scant or contested as unscientific.

In the past decade, hyperactivity has — apparently — ballooned into serious
proportions in some countries, stirring controversy along the way.

US doctors commonly see hyperactivity as a medical condition
(attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, ADHD) and prescribe a potent drug, ritalin, to treat it.

Other experts speculate that hyperactivity has social causes such as home
instability and poor education, and say use of powerful, mind-altering drugs is

In the new study, Mix A comprised 45mg of sodium benzoate and 20mg of
artificial food colourings, namely sunset yellow (European food code E110),
carmoisine (E122); tartrazine (E102); and ponceau 4R (E124).

(P.S. neiner, neiner, neiner!)

Here are other things I’ve written about food additives and artificial dye:

Eating a Rainbow

Bathing in a Rainbow

Dangerous Popcorn


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  4. ember · September 14, 2007

    We already have a “no dyes in the house” rule (though at times my older kids… and even my husband and I… will stretch a bit while out-n-about and get things with dyes inside while providing an equally appealing no-dye option to our youngest… we are trying hard to break this habit). We are planning on treating it as serious now as if one of us had a peanut or shellfish (or similar) allergy. For instance, if one of my children were allergic to peanuts, there is no way that we would all be sitting in the car eating PB&J sandwiches and peanut butter cup candy around that child. We are going to make a printed and matted sign to put on our door explaining that there are members of our family with a sensitivity to artificial food coloring (and list both the common and chemical names – learning the less common names is helpful, as sometimes foods from other countries do not adopt America’s “short hand” in labels) and insist that products with those chemicals NOT come into our home.

    My children are now learning about sodium benzoate and I think that we are all on the path of eliminating it from our consumption. We have been looking out for tasty beverages without sodium benzoate to replace our current favorites. Meanwhile, we are hopeful that companies like Jones and such that make things we like will stop using sodium benzoate.

    Thanks for posting this article (and for all of your fantastic blog entries). I am very grateful that someone linked your blog on a parenting forum (I was looking for recall/lead information). I have really enjoyed reading!

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  6. Jarod's Mom · September 7, 2007

    We took all additives out of our 7 year old’s diet in May and saw AMAZING results. In just 4 months he has gone from the level of a 3 year old to a”normal” 7 year old!

    His journal is here:

    We need more studies done!

    Though these are a good start.

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