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FDA Considers Evidence That Food Dyes Lead to ADHD

Attention deficit caused by food dyes?

Fake colors contributes to hyperactivity?

Today the Food and Drug Administration begins a meeting to examine whether artificial food dyes — the kind used in candy, soda, cereal and a host of other processed foods, can cause symptoms of ADHD in children.

Artificial food coloring is made from petroleum. If that, in and of itself doesn’t sound unsavory enough, some point to studies saying that they can cause an uptick in kids’ hyperactivity. That has some urging the FDA to either ban or require warning labels for these fun color-bursting ingredients.

Here’s what the FDA is mulling over this week in the case of food dyes and ADHD:

Many people try “elimination diets” when they note hyperactivity in their kids (dating back to the 1970’s and pediatrician Benjamin Feingold’s suggestions), and some say it works. On the other hand, NPR interviewed a mom and daughter combo for whom food restrictions did not work, whereas ADHD medication immediately did.

But the Center for Science in the Public interest says that the use of dyes is five times what it was 50 years ago, and they want to see eight specific dyes (that make up most of our coloring additives) banned from foods.

The FDA has already released a review of studies on dyes and ADHD and says it finds no conclusive evidence of a link (the CFSPI says otherwise). But, for example, the European Union has decided to require a label on any product with artificial dyes. Some manufacturers have decided to use natural dyes made from things like beets instead, but this route is more expensive.

The bottom line is that we can’t make a conclusive, direct statement about dyes leading to ADHD, but most doctors will say that it can’t hurt to try eliminating them – why not? It’s not as if they have health value. But the thing is, as I pointed out in a recent article on Autism and ADHD crossovers, ADHD is a complex disorder. Maybe dyes or other food additives do swing certain kids into hyperactive moods (although we know it isn’t sugar that does this), while others are unaffected. That’s possible because ADHD is such a varied disorder and doesn’t have the same physiological profile in every kid.

What do you think about food dyes and hyperactivity? Have you or someone you know tried to eliminate them?

Image: flickr

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