Controversy Over Food Colour and ADHD

May 22, 2013

Today I stumbled across Adrienne Dechie’s tweet where she provided a link to an article called “Why French Kids Don’t Have ADHD“. This article provides interesting comparisons between the North American and French ways of rearing children. I won’t get into this debate, but what stuck with me is the mention that a child’s diet affects behaviour. Specifically the consumption of food dye.

I raised a child who was extremely sensitive to food colouring, and whenever he ate food containing  food colouring his behaviour drastically changed. He was:

    • Extremely hyper-active
    • rough when he played and often broke his favourite toys
    • unable to sleep or very restless sleep
    • an inability to focus
    • short attention span

The difficult part of removing food colouring from a diet is that it is in almost every food. When Mark ingested food colouring it took 5 days to work it out of his system. On one  occasion Mark was given three goldfish crackers at school. His behaviour changed so much that a family friend, who had never seen Mark’s behaviour on food colouring, commented that if he hadn’t known Mark before, he would think Mark needed to be on Ritalin.

I dreaded Halloween and allowed him this day to eat all the food he could, because that would be it! And we would bunker down for a really difficult week and wait for the numerous phone calls that would come from the school.

I really believe that what a child eats impacts behaviour and learning.  We know that a healthy diet is important, but maybe we should examine the food a little more carefully. If it took a week to work through Mark’s system, imagine what his behaviour would have been like if I gave him one piece of candy every day (even a slice of cheddar cheese!) I too would consider drugs.

ABC news reported on the correlation between food colouring and ADHD in February 2013. I would like to see more research between food additives and behaviour in children, because I experienced it and I know in my heart that there is more to this topic then we realize.

Check out the Feingold Diet and see for yourself.

Food dye is actually a petroleum product containing lead, mercury, and arsenic!

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9 Responses to Controversy Over Food Colour and ADHD

  1. nixon22k says:

    I hear ya! My step-daughter is a completely different kid when she has anything with sugar (and most likely food colouring) in it. We always tell students, “if you put a lot of effort into a project you will get a good product or mark.” We need to be telling the same thing about their bodies, “If you pay attention to what you eat and put good food into your body you will get a good product (concentration, energy, improved mood and overall health).” Since students don’t usually do their own grocery shopping it is important to make that information available to parents as well. Your post makes me think about how important it is to have healthy lunch and snack rules in schools as well. Thanks for posting!

    • Thanks for responding to my post. Eating clean was a real struggle and I resorted to making most food; from marshmallows to relish. As an educator I am concerned with the number of children being diagnosed with so many different learning disabilities and I have often wondered how much their diet affected their behaviour and learning. Unfortunately many parents are so busy and trying to follow such a restrictive diet proves to be too much.

  2. Nicole Koza says:

    From working at summer camps and various schools I have definitely seen behavioral changes in children when they have eaten sugars and food that has been dyed. We have tried to implement rules where they are not allowed to eat any types of food out of the vending machine. Since all foods in vending machines contain high amounts of sugar, trans fats and many other things that are not healthy, especially for children. Yet sometimes children are given money for lunches and that is all they have to eat. So it is very difficult issue when trying to foster healthy living, but not all children have access to healthy food.

    • Thanks for your reply Nicole, you raise a very important point about the affordability and access to healthy food. Food coming out of vending machines is a great way to limit food dye; however, so much “healthy food” when you read labels contains dye. We almost need to go back to the basics and limit consumption of processed foods.

  3. Kendra K says:

    Thanks for sharing Mariette.
    I have definitely found this to be true in my past few experiences in different schools. It scares me the amount of additional colouring and additives that are in the food and drinks we are feeding children. In my past few weeks as a substitute I have come to the realization that many children in elementary schools no longer drink plain water. They add all these sugar mixes and electrolyte solutions to their main source of hydration, only to crash from the sugar buzz or get a headache from the chemicals they are ingesting.
    I agree with the previous people who commented. It makes me wonder what is happening to real food, you know, the food that only has a few ingredients we can pronounce?

  4. Thanks Kendra for your reply. We have a big challenge educating children and parents about healthy eating. Mariette.

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