Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community


    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

ADHD in Children Health Center

Font Size

ADHD, Food Dyes, and Additives

Ingredients People Watch Out For

The European Union requires warning labels on foods made with the following dyes, based on a study done in 2007:

  • Quinoline yellow (yellow #10)
  • Ponceau 4R (not available in the U.S.)
  • Allura red (red #40)
  • Azorubine (not approved for food in the U.S.)
  • Tartrazine (yellow #5)
  • Sunset yellow (yellow #6)

Those rules aren't in place in the U.S. In 2011, an FDA expert panel concluded there isn't enough evidence to prove food dyes cause hyperactivity in children.

If You Try a Dye-Free Diet

"One of the challenges is getting kids to like the diet," Nigg says.

If you want to try cutting out all foods made with dyes or other additives, Nigg recommends working with a nutritionist who understands ADHD. "Don't try this on your own, because there are too many ways to miss key nutrients," he says.

You'll also need to read food labels to look for "any dye that has a number, like red #40 or yellow #5," says Laura J. Stevens, author of 12 Effective Ways to Help Your ADD/ADHD Child.

Try it for a few weeks. Note any changes in your child's behavior. Then you can start adding foods back into your child's diet, about one a week, and see if their symptoms return.

"In most cases, you could narrow it down to three or four things your child can't eat," Nigg says.

There's a perk: Avoiding artificial colors means eating fewer processed foods, which could cut down on sugar and make your family's diet better, regardless of ADHD.

"Foods that contain artificial colors, it's hard to find one that you would say has good nutrition," Stevens says.

1 | 2
Reviewed on May 25, 2015

Today on WebMD

doctor writing on clipboard
mother with child
disciplining a boy
daughter with her unhappy parents
preschool age girl sitting at desk
Child with adhd
father helping son with homework
children in sack race