Hyperactivity and food additives: new evidence of a connection

The results of a British study published in the leading medical journal The Lancet, show there seems to be a connection between eating foods that contain food colourings and the food preservative sodium benzoate, and ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder). This study is the first to clearly identify the link parents and scientists have long suspected.

The results of a British study published in the leading medical journal The Lancet, show there seems to be a connection between eating foods that contain food colourings and the food preservative sodium benzoate, and ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder). This study is the first to clearly identify the link parents and scientists have long suspected.

The study included approximately 300 British children in two age groups: 3-year-olds; and children 8 to 9 years of age. Over three one-week periods, the children were asked to drink three specific fruit drinks identical in colour and taste. The first contained food colouring and sodium benzoate in quantities similar to those typically found in a British child’s diet. The second fruit drink contained less significant quantities of additives, and the third contained none at all. Furthermore, neither the parents, nor the teachers, nor the researchers knew which beverage the children were drinking at any given time.

To evaluate the impact consuming the three drinks had on the children’s behaviours, parents and teachers were asked to complete various standardized behaviour-evaluation questionnaires for each week-long period. Additionally, the children in the 8 to 9 age group had to undergo a computer-based test to measure their attention span. All behaviour-evaluation tools were used to evaluate restlessness, concentration problems and impulsivity.

After having analysed the data collected, researchers concluded the consumption of the fruit drinks that contained food colourings and sodium benzoate had a significant impact on the symptoms of hyperactivity and deficit disorder for the children in the group of 3-year-olds. The same effects, although less significant, were also noted in the group of older children.

The researchers were able to establish a connection between the presence of food colourings and sodium benzoate in these fruit drinks, and the appearance of hyperactivity and/or attention deficit symptoms. Because the three fruit drinks used in the study contained several additives, scientists were unable to determine the specific role of each on the children’s behaviours. Consequently, experts recommend children altogether avoid consuming prepared foods that contain artificial ingredients, regardless of the additive or colouring.

Many parents who have children with ADHD had already observed a link between food choices and the level of symptoms their children experienced. This study actually confirms their suspicions. And in the end, the British study justifies the trend that appeared over the last decade: eating a more wholesome and natural diet.

Health Canada recently published a new Canadian Food Guide to help parents make better food decisions for their entire family. For children and adults alike, healthy food choices can make a real difference!

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