Food additives increase hyperactivity in kids

7 September, 2007:

Some artificial food colorings and other additives can worsen hyperactive behavior in children, especially those aged 3 to 9.

A research conducted by the Food Standards Agency (FSA), the food watchdog of the United Kingdom, has warned all parents of a clear link between additives and hyperactive behavior in children.

In an article published in the medical journal The Lancet, the FSA has established the “deleterious effects” of taking a mixture of artificial extras that are added to drinks, sweets, and processed foods.

The food watchdog has advised parents who believe their children to be hyperactive that they should cut out foods containing the E numbers analyzed in the study.

Scientists from the University of Southampton, the United Kingdom, who carried out research on over 300 children aged 3 to 8 believe that their findings could have a “substantial” impact on the regulation of food additives in Britain. The tests showed significant differences in the children’s behavior when they drank fruit drinks spiked with a mixture of food colorings and preservatives.

Jim Stevenson and colleagues at the University of Southampton wrote in the study: “These findings show that adverse effects are not just seen in children with extreme hyperactivity (such as ADHD) but can also be seen in the general population and across the range of severities of hyperactivity.”

Stevenson’s team, which has been studying the effects of food additives in children for years, made up two mixtures to test in one group of 3-year-olds and a second group of children aged 8 and 9.

They included sunset-yellow colouring, also known as E110; carmoisine, or E122; tartrazine, or E102; ponceau 4R, or E124; the preservative sodium benzoate, or E211; and other colours.

One of the two mixtures contained ingredients commonly drunk by young British children in popular drinks. The researchers, however, did not specify what foods might include the additives.

Both mixtures significantly affected the older children. The 3-year-olds were most affected by the mixture that closely resembled the average intake for children that age.

After consuming the drinks – a cocktail of controversial E numbers and the preservative sodium benzoate – the children were found to become boisterous and lose concentration. They were unable to play with one toy or complete one task, and they engaged in unusually impulsive behavior.

The older group was unable to complete a 15-minute computer exercise.

Dr Sue Baic, a dietitian at the University of Bristol, said: “This is a well-designed and potentially very important study. It supports what dietitians have known for a long time – that feeding children on diets largely consisting of heavily processed foods, which may also be high in fat, salt or sugar, is not optimal for health.”





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