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Beware: brightly coloured foods

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Beware: brightly coloured foods

Post by AlleyRose on Tue Jun 03, 2014 11:29 pm

Chemical colouring in food and drinks can make even normal kids hyperactive, say researchers.

Foods with chemical colouring are likely to make kids fidgety and hyperactive.
That's the conclusion of UK researchers, who tested some common food dyes and preservatives on a group of toddlers and older children.
Over a six week period, they gave two groups of kids – one group aged three years and the others aged eight and nine – three sets of drinks.
Two of the drinks were cocktails of additives and colourings commonly found in sweets and drinks – compounds like sunset yellow (also called E110), carmoisine (E122), tartrazine (E102), ponceau 4R (E124), quinoline yellow (E104), allura red (E129), sunset yellow, and sodium benzoate. The third drink was a placebo – it contained no colourings or additives.
They then compared the kids' behaviour using standard tests used to diagnose attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). These tests were administered by teachers, psychologists and parents.
The researchers found that in general (and in the older group especially) the children who drank the cocktails of additives and colourings were noticeably more hyperactive and had shorter attention spans than those who drank the placebo.
Growing debate
There's been a debate going on about colouring and other additives ever since the 1970s when US paediatric allergist Dr Ben Feingold suggested a wide range of food additives made kids hyperactive and devised an additive-free diet to prevent hyperactivity.
Studies since the 1980s have shown that artificial colourings worsen symptoms of kids with ADHD, and that removing them from their diet improves their symptoms.
But the link between hyperactivity and food colouring in otherwise healthy, calm, normal kids hasn't been well demonstrated by studies in the past.
This latest study isn't perfect – it didn't test individual chemicals to see which ones caused the hyperactivity. Also the kids were given larger doses of colouring than most kids would normally get (the amount of colouring the kids received was the equivalent of between two and four bags of sweets a day – that's a lot of chemical). And there was considerable individual variation amongst the kids to the mixtures – so colouring may not affect all kids equally.
But this is the first experimental study that clearly shows a link and it does strengthen the case of those who believe the association is real.
If you've noticed your child getting hyperactive after eating sweets and lollies or drinking fizzy drinks or cordials, then the study provides confirmation the additives are likely to be doing it. What is also possible is you've noticed the hyperactivity but haven't drawn the link to the food colouring.
The question is, what do about it? Following the study's release, the UK Food Standards Agency advised parents of children who show signs of hyperactivity after eating coloured foods to cut out foods containing additives tested in the study.
Australia's food regulator, Food Standards Australia and New Zealand, says it's aware of the study, and is considering what action to take. They point out that removing these additives from your child's diet may not affect hyperactivity, but if you suspect your child has a reaction after eating food containing additives to seek advice from a medical professional or accredited dietitian.
Omega-3 acid theory
Certainly kids who are prone to hyperactivity or suffer from ADHD should exclude additives from their diet, says psychologist and behavioural neurotherapist Jacques Duff.
He says that kids with ADHD and autism have lower levels than normal of omega 3 fatty acids in their cell membranes and tend to be hyperactive when exposed to food additives and colouring. Their abnormal cell membranes allow these chemical additives into cells such as brain cells, and disrupt the cells' functions.
But, Duff says, some children without these conditions also have lower than normal levels of omega 3 acids in cell membranes and become hyperactive when exposed to additives.
Salicylates, amines, and preservatives and additives generally should be avoided in these kids. Foods containing yellow and red dyes – which contain the chemical tartrazine – are particularly dangerous he says.
It's easy to tell foods that contain them, as they're identified on food labels either by name or a code number.
He points out that coloured foods are of little nutritional benefit anyway. The colouring is added to improve the look of the food, not the nutritional content.
Duff says there should be more research into whether these additives are capable of causing serious long term damage. In the meantime, if it's brightly coloured, it's probably best avoided.

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