Dr. Ben Feingold, pediatrician and allergist, first linked artificial colors to hyperactivity (ADHD) in 1970s. His book Why Your Child is Hyperactive details an additive free diet, which helps kids who are diagnosed what was then called hyperactivity, now referred to as ADHD and ADD.
The diet takes some effort, especially in the initial stages. Most parents find that the success rate of over 80 percent more than makes up for any additional work.
I put my daughter, Jenny, on the Feingold diet for hyperactive children over thirty years ago. It would be more accurate to say that our family went on the diet, as it’s nearly impossible to have a 4-year-old on a different diet from the rest of the family.
People would often remark that they thought it would take too much work to keep food additives out of their diet. Obviously, they didn’t know how much “work” a hyperactive child required. The effort for the diet seemed easy in comparison.
Angel shows her blue tongue after eating artificial colors.
That was over thirty years ago. Despite the diet’s success, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) Food Advisory Committee has yet to require warning labels on food containing artificial ingredients. Food additives are very big business. Foods which rely on additives are generally extremely profitable (chemical additives are far cheaper than real food). Drugs for treatment of ADHD are also big business. There is no profit for a diet free of additives.
Synthetic Color Additives in the News
March 31, the FDA voted 8 to 6 against recommending warning labels on foods with synthetic color additives. The one bright spot is that the panel did call for more studies to determine if there is a link between food colors and hyperactivity in children. FDA will consider the committee’s recommendations in the next few months and decide how to respond to the Center for Science in the Public Interest’s request to either ban food coloring or mandate warning labels.
The use of artificial food dyes has increased 50 percent since 1990. That’s twice as many products than I had to eliminate with Jenny. Today, synthetic colors are found in everything from pickles to bread. Artificial food colors were once made from coal tar but now derived from petroleum. (Read the last sentence once more: “Artificial food colors were once made from coal tar but now derived from petroleum.”) Yes, the bright colors you see in all processed foods are derived from PETROLEM.
Artificial dyes are more stable and cheaper than natural colors derived from fruits and vegetables. The real sticking point is natural colors are more expensive than the petroleum colors.
I remember my daughter’s pediatrician thinking I was a bit nutty when I told him of Jenny’s improvement when I took all the synthetic colors out of our food. I could tell that he didn’t really believe me. (I changed doctors.) I had my own accidental double-blind studies to affirm how they affected Jenny. When an artificial color or flavor was consumed by accident, Jenny’s ADHD would surface once again. To add insult to injury, it could take several days for it work its way through her system.
I guess nothings changed. Do I care if they can prove it in a double-blind study? Nope. Perhaps your children don’t have ADHD or ADD, but do you want them consuming products with petroleum colors? Don’t wait for the FDA to rescue your child.
You must be your family’s advocate. Read labels and vote with your dollar. If enough people stop purchasing foods with artificial chemicals, the retailers would use natural ingredients. Jenny is now grown with a family of her own, yet my husband and I don’t eat food with artificial additives. We are voting with our dollars, you should too.