Large study finds dyes, preservatives cause hyperactivity

Dr. Ben Feingold, a pediatric allergist, said it as early as 1973: additives in foods cause hyperactivity in sensitive children. What followed was a succession of biased industry-sponsored studies aimed at discrediting Dr. Feingold’s findings. Then the food industry continued along its merry way of creating ever more additive-laden foods and marketing them to children.

For many of us natural practitioners, and for parents who are not so quick to medicate their children and instead observe their behaviors carefully, Dr. Feingold was never wrong. Now a large double-blind placebo-controlled British study is providing further confirmation for this.

The study (Arch Dis Child 2004; 89: 506-11. doi: 10.1136/adc.2003.031435) can be found online at It looked at nearly two thousand three-year-old children, separating them into different groups based on prior hyperactive behavior and the presence of allergies. In each group, children were either given a diet free of dyes and sodium benzoate (a preservative commonly found in soft drinks), or a diet containing these additives.

Researchers concluded that “the effect of food additives and colorings on hyperactivity is substantial” and in fact comparable to that seen in some medication studies. They further stated “the potential long-term public health benefit is indicated by studies which have shown that the young hyperactive child is at risk of continuing behavioral difficulties, including the transition to conduct disorder and educational difficulties.” In other words, just covering up a problem without addressing its root causes is likely to lead to continuing and escalating trouble as children grow into adulthood.

Interestingly, the researchers also found that the negative effects of these additives were independent of prior hyperactive behavior or allergies. What this means is that these chemicals are simply bad, with no redeeming qualities. I’m all for a free country but someone out there should be watching out for the health of our children and removing these dangerous chemicals from our food supply!

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