While ADHD may be on the rise and researchers can’t quite understand why, there has been documented correlation linking ADHD, and the foods we consume. Food dyes can play a role in ADHD. The diagnosis of ADHD has become more prevalent in our society. Children are being diagnosed now more than ever. Foods contain more additives and preservatives that do not belong in our food. Food dyes/ artificial food colors in particular are worrisome. Food dyes are placed in our foods to market the distributor and so that the color attracts attention to the consumer. The amount of food dyes used in our foods today has increased drastically over the last few decades.
Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (also known as ADHD) is usually diagnosed during the adolescent years. However, more recently it has been seen during the adult years. ADHD may affect one’s behavior, cognitive skills, and even mood. ADHD is broken down into two components. These include hyperactivity and inattention. Symptoms include aggression, impulsivity, hyperactivity, irritability, absent-mindedness, difficulty focusing, brain-fogginess, short attention span, anxiety, and mood swings. In some cases, ADHD is responsible for learning disabilities and depression. ADHD is noted in the classroom among children due to the inability to remain seated and the lack of paying attention. These symptoms can affect the ability to learn and academic performance. Children with ADHD may have a harder time obtaining good grades and sometimes forced to repeat a grade without the proper diagnosis and treatment plan. Although it is likely to be noted in the classroom, it must be diagnosed by a clinician and be seen in two different settings (home and school etc.). “Children must have at least six symptoms from either (or both) the inattention group of criteria and the hyperactivity and impulsivity criteria, whereas older adolescents and adults (over the age of 17 years) must present with five. Most symptoms should have been present before the age of 12 years.” Unlike other disorders ADHD does not affect life expectancy, and a person can live a functional life with the disorder.
Researchers performed a study in an urban town in Morocco to confirm if there is any correlation between food additives and hyperactivity in children (or ADHD). The study included 239 students from an urban public school. The youngest participant was 6 years old and the oldest participant was 16 years old. Information needed from the participants was nutrition habits and economic status. The DSM-IV was used to evaluate ADHD. Researchers allowed the children to consume cookies and soft drinks from the nearby markets. These items were used to determine if the food additives caused hyperactivity. The results showed that there was a correlation between ADHD and food additives. “Indeed, a significant correlation between this disorder and the food additives contained in cookies and soft drinks bought from the local markets (p<0.05, p<0.01 respectively) is registered. The hyperactivity disorder founded among these children appeared in connection with food additive contained in cookies and soft drinks bought from the local markets of the child…” This shows a large percent in the population shows signs of hyperactivity.
Today, food coloring added into foods is considered a norm. “It is estimated that between 2,500 and 3,000 different agents are presently used as food additives.” Prior to using the dozens of food additives, people have used different spices/herbs to help with the taste of food, salt was used to protect meat, sugar on the fruits, and natural pigmentation for the colors of our foods. Although additives are used to help to maintain the shelf life of food, some are used solely for cosmetic reasons. Food coloring helps maintain natural color loss due to the climate (air, sunlight, moisture, weather etc.) It is also used to make food look more attractive for marketing purposes. For example, if Trix cereal was gray and not colorful, children would not be interested in eating the cereal. Synthetic dyes are used because it is economically the better choice. The FDA has approved 9 dyes in the USA. Synthetic dyes are used in our snacks, cereals, and many colorful foods that attract the eyes of children.
Dr. Benjamin Feingold was the director of allergists, and a pediatrician who lived in California. He has published peer-reviewed papers on behavioral changes related to allergies. He became worrisome about the dyes introduced into the foods in the 1960s, although he was aware of the behavioral changes in children long before. Feingold proposed that children’s bodies were having an immunological response to dyes and preservatives, and not an allergic response. Dr. Feingold was aware of the elimination diet, and he has used it in his line of work to determine allergies in his patients previously. His beliefs included that ADHD will increase due to the dyes in the foods. Feingold treated children with Dr. Lockey’s elimination diet to conclude if removing the dyes from the children’s diet, they will decrease in ADHD symptoms. His results showed that 50% of the children on his diet had good feedback.
Diet may not be the only indicator in ADHD, but it plays a huge role in the increase diagnosing of ADHD. Aside from the additives that are in today’s processed and non-organic foods, consuming the right food can help with the ADHD diagnosis crisis we are now going through. Families are becoming more aware of food dyes and are refraining from feeding their children such. This has made it easier for big companies such as Kraft to want to remove certain dyes from their products. According to CBS news, Kraft has removed artificial food coloring, notably Yellow No. 5 and Yellow No. 6 dyes due to claims that the dyes may be linked to ADHD in children. Coca cola and Walmart have removed certain dyes from their products in other countries. U.K. branches of Wal-Mart, Kraft, Coca Cola and the Mars candy company (who make M&Ms), have voluntarily removed artificial colors, the preservative sodium benzoate, and even aspartame from their products. Particularly those marketed to kids.
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