As human beings, our bodies are affected differently by various foods and food products. Some of the usual effects might include caffeine giving us a boost of energy; aged cheeses and red wines triggering headaches; and high-fat or acidic foods bring heartburn. What most people probably don’t know is how preservatives, colors, and artificial flavors affect our bodies—especially in children.
Did you ever wonder why after dinner or other meals, you can take your children to the park or store, and while some kids are very calm and just walking around or playing quietly, yours are the loudest and making the most commotion? Well, look at what you feed them.
Research conducted in 2007 by a team from the University of Southampton's Schools of Psychology and Medicine shows “that a variety of common food dyes and the preservative sodium benzoate — an ingredient in many soft drinks, fruit juices, salad dressings and other foods — causes some children to become more hyperactive and distractible than usual.” (TIME)
The researchers discovered that children in certain age groups (three, eight and nine year-olds) were significantly more hyperactive and that they had shorter attention spans if they had consumed a drink containing certain additives.
This study isn’t saying that such preservatives cause ADHD or that the impact of them is only to children with ADHD. In a response to a question posted by a parent in the “Expert Answers” section of their website, the Mayo Clinic points out that “there's no evidence that food additives cause attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), but an increasing number of studies show that certain food colorings and preservatives may cause or worsen hyperactive behavior in some children.”
The theory that food, specifically preservatives, color and flavors, is linked to hyperactivity isn’t new information. There have been other studies dating back as many as 36 years ago outlining the relationship between artificial foods and a child’s behavior. In 1975, Dr. Ben F. Feingold published a book titled Why Is Your Child Hyperactive?. In this book, he linked hyperactivity and learning disabilities to artificial food colors and flavors. The Feingold diet suggests that by eliminating preservatives like BHA, BHT and TBHQ we can help reduce the above mentioned behavioral problems.
A 1985 study of elimination diets published in the "Lancet" also found that preservatives may affect children’s behavior. Then, in 2004, a study published by B. Bateman and colleagues in Archives of Disease in Childhood claims that benzoate may increase hyperactive behavior in children. Finally, the University of Southampton’s study, mentioned above, published in 2007, is the most recent study to link such behaviors to artificial foods and preservatives.
The fix is very simple for the parents of children with this reaction. Products have labels that are loaded with all the information you need to understand what ingredients your children are ingesting. Remove foods with artificial flavors, preservatives and color. According to the study in England, “when the food colorings and preservatives were added back into the children's diets, the parents reported an increase in hyperactivity.” (WebMD) It’s worth the extra time in the supermarket to read the labels a little more closely. Diet therapy has been proven to be a successful resolution to many families with children affected by these foods and dyes.
More and more companies are making healthy alternatives. In 2008, Coca-Cola® phased out sodium benzoate from their diet coke products. Tyson makes all-natural, preservative-free chicken nuggets, without flavor. Even Cheetos® makes a natural white cheddar cheese puff. There are options out there for a more healthy diet for our kids. You just need to look for them.
Still skeptical? Try it. Slowly replace some of your kid’s favorite foods with an all-natural alternative. Keep a journal of the items you replace and see which foods are causing the majority of the hyperactivity. You will be glad you read this article and the food labels and saved your child from being exposed to harmful food products.
Children are very adaptable to certain foods and environments. Teachers will recommend parents have their children evaluated for medication. Some parents are opposed to medications to solve these types of problems. Children were able to calm down after meals while maintaining a healthy diet. The medication was not necessary after the meal content and ingredients were examined and removed from the diet. The children started behaving better, feeling different, and losing the craving for “bad” foods.
Based on these parental reports of behavioral changes, researchers estimate that if the current 15 percent of children thought to have hyperactivity-related behavior problems were to go on an additive-free diet, the prevalence could be reduced to 6 percent. (WebMD) Researchers say it's not the first study to come up with mixed results when looking at the relationship between artificial food additives and hyperactivity. He advocated a diet free of more than 300 food additives to treat hyperactivity.
So before you start looking at medications to calm your children, stop and take a good look at their diet. You can do your child a huge favor and just cut out artificial products. Your child may thank you later for not having them on several different medications that we still don’t know the long term affects of.
Staff'), Mayo Clinic. "ADHD Diet: Do Food Additives Cause Hyperactivity? - MayoClinic.com." Mayo Clinic. Web. 10 Feb. 2011. <http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/adhd/AN01721>.
"Food Additives May Affect Kids' Hyperactivity." WebMD - Better Information. Better Health.Web. 10 Feb. 2011. <http://www.webmd.com/add-adhd/news/20040524/food-additives-may-affect-kids-hyperactivity>.
Wallace, Claudia. "Hyper Kids? Cut Out Preservatives - TIME." Breaking News, Analysis, Politics, Blogs, News Photos, Video, Tech Reviews - TIME.com. Web. 10 Feb. 2011. <http://www.time.com/time/health/article/0,8599,1659835,00.html>.
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