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What are concerns about eliminating food additives to help with ADHD?

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In 1975, an allergist first proposed that artificial colors, flavors, and preservatives might lead to hyperactivity in some children. Since then, researchers and child behavior experts have hotly debated this issue. Some say the idea of cutting all those things out of a diet is unfounded and unsupported by scientific evidence. But one study has shown that some food coloring and one preservative did increase hyperactivity in some children. But the effects varied according to age and additive. Based on this and other recent studies, the American Academy of Pediatrics now agrees that eliminating preservatives and food colorings from the diet is a reasonable option for children with ADHD. Some experts recommend that people with ADHD avoid these substances:

  • Artificial colors, especially red and yellow
  • Food additives such as aspartame, MSG (monosodium glutamate), and nitrites. Some studies have linked hyperactivity to the preservative sodium benzoate.

From: ADHD Diet and Nutrition WebMD Medical Reference

SOURCES: WebMD ADHD Guide: "Topic Overview." WebMD ADHD Medications and Treatments Blog, Richard Sogn, MD: "ADHD Natural Supplements and Nutrition" and "Food Coloring and Additives." Feingold Association of the United States: "Many learning and behavior problems begin in your grocery cart!" McCann, D. , Nov. 3, 2007. Schonwald, A. , February 2008. 




LancetAAP Grand Rounds

USDA MyPyramid.gov: "What are discretionary calories?"

Bateman, B. June 2004. Arch Dis Child,

Reviewed by Smitha Bhandari on June 27, 2019

SOURCES: WebMD ADHD Guide: "Topic Overview." WebMD ADHD Medications and Treatments Blog, Richard Sogn, MD: "ADHD Natural Supplements and Nutrition" and "Food Coloring and Additives." Feingold Association of the United States: "Many learning and behavior problems begin in your grocery cart!" McCann, D. , Nov. 3, 2007. Schonwald, A. , February 2008. 




LancetAAP Grand Rounds

USDA MyPyramid.gov: "What are discretionary calories?"

Bateman, B. June 2004. Arch Dis Child,

Reviewed by Smitha Bhandari on June 27, 2019

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