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ADHD in Children Health Center

Food Additives May Affect Kids' Hyperactivity

Food Coloring and Preservatives May Increase Hyperactivity in Children, but Evidence Not Conclusive
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Finding a Diet to Fight Hyperactivity

Aside from the preservative and food colorings examined by this study, Schnoll says many other foods are commonly implicated in triggering hyperactive behavior and allergic reactions in children. They include chocolate, cow's milk, eggs, oranges, sugar, and wheat.

That's why she says it's so difficult to do these types of studies well -- it's hard to take out only one or two things from the diet and come up with what causes the problems in behavior.

Instead, Schnoll recommends a "few foods" or "elimination" diet for children with hyperactivity problems to determine if food reactions are playing a role in their behavior. The diet includes only a few foods that do not commonly cause allergic reactions, such as chicken, lamb, bananas, pears, rice, and potatoes.

The child stays on this diet for two weeks, and then the parents can start adding foods one by one back into diet and monitor for allergic reactions or changes in behavior.

"In all studies I have seen, this is best approach where you can actually see kids react after eating various certain foods," says Schnoll.

"There is a very big allergic component to hyperactivity where children who are hyperactive also have other types of allergic problems, such as eczema and asthma," Schnoll tells WebMD. "When you take them off these offending foods -- whether they're colorings, food additives, milk, dairy, or wheat -- it improves their allergic conditions, and also their hyperactivity improves."

In addition, Schnoll says not getting the proper balance of vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients can make children more susceptible to hyperactive behavior and other problems.

"We are getting too much of the trans fats and the omega-6 fatty acids from the plant oils and not enough of omega-3 fats that we find in walnuts, flaxseed, and fish," says Schnoll. "Not getting enough of these omega-3s can actually precipitate allergies and possibly hyperactive behavior."

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