Wednesday, May 13, 2009
Someone had planted a little bug in my head that artificial food colors were linked to behavioral issues in kids. It sounded ridiculous so I researched it. The things I read scared me and changed my ways-forever. I stared reading correlations between artificial food coloring (AFC) and hyperactive / problematic behavior. I was also told that Artifical Food Coloring was made from (hang on to your hats) coal tar residue / petroleum. Yikes! I write this here to educate and bring light to a hidden issue not to be an alarmist; but if it helps someone the way it helped us then I feel good about this post.
Michael gets overwhelmed easy. When he gets overwhelmed he essentially explodes. It makes me sad because this sometimes defines him but it really isn’t who he is.I thought it was worth trying and decided to give it a go and eliminate AFC. This resulted in chucking a whole bunch of food from my pantry and re-buying after reading ingredients. I found that AFC is in almost everything-- even where you don't expect it.
Dr Feingold was the leader of this movement. Back in the 1970s, he strongly advocated the link between diet and behavior which culminated in his dietary guidelines for children suffering from a variety of behavioral issues. Southampton University did a study that linked artificial food coloring and sodium benzoate and hyperactive behavior. Read the study information here.
The Center for Science In the Public Interest urges the FDA to eliminate artificial food coloring. In a quote from the article "The science shows that kids' behavior improves when these artificial colorings are removed from their diets and worsens when they’re added to the their diets," said Dr. David Schab, a psychiatrist at Columbia University Medical Center, who conducted the 2004 meta-analysis with his colleague Dr. Nhi-Ha T. Trinh. "While not all children seem to be sensitive to these chemicals, it's hard to justify their continued use in foods—especially those foods heavily marketed to young children."
JM Swanson and M Kinsbourne found in their research that food dyes impaired children’s' ability on a learning test.
The American Academy of Pediatrics has not acknowledged the link, however in the February 2008 AAP publication "AAP Grand Rounds", the article states that after reviewing the evidence and studies, the AAP concluded that "parents and providers understandably seek safe and effective interventions [for ADHD] that require no prescription ... a trial of a preservative-free, food coloring-free diet is a reasonable intervention" My opinion is of course it is reasonable-- why wouldn't they advocate for trying something natural like this before medicating kids with Ritalin and other medications? I wonder what took them so long to encourage people to at least try something before going directly to pharmaceuticals.
In my own experiment in our house I have found dramatic results. First of all, Meagan has no sensitivity to food dyes. She can have them which I have allowed occasionally and demonstrates absolutely no reaction to them.
Michael on the other hand is a very dramatic case. I can usually time his behavioral outbursts almost to the minute after having artificial food dyes. Having been off the artificial food dyes for three months now the change is dramatic: he is more even tempered, more rational when upset, episodic meltdowns have dramatically decreased, his focus is much clearer, and he is more easy-going. In my findings I do believe that there are children that have "sensitivities" to these artificial food additives and that they can be helped with dietary changes.
I encourage all parents to look into this issue, get all of the facts, and make a determination based on your unique situation for your family.