Question: ‘Does a child's diet have anything to do with
Dr. Spencer: Your question about diet was
formally studied. Everybody had the impression that diet was closely
If diet was to be a cause of the problem, then if you changed diet,
people would get better, and it hasn’t been shown to be true.
with ADHD tend to crave junk food and sugar. They eat poorly. If you
a lot of sugar, you’re a little more hyper, but even if you exclude
and all these additives and eat a very bland, difficult-to-enforce
you don’t improve that much. That was actually tested. There were lots
double-blind controlled studies of that. The American Academy of
wrote a position statement saying that there may be a few sensitive
but by and large, diet isn’t a good treatment for ADHD, and it's not
part of the cause.’
Food dyes impair performance of hyperactive children on
a laboratory learning test.
‘Forty children were given a diet free of
food dyes and other additives for 5 days. Twenty of the children had
classified as hyperactive by scores on the Conners Rating Scale and
reported to have favorable responses to stimulant medication. A
of hyperactivity had been rejected in the other 20 children. Oral
with large doses (100 or 150 milligrams) of a blend of FD & C
food dyes or placebo were administered on days 4 and 5 of the
The performance of the hyperactive children on paired-associate
tests on the day they received the dye blend was impaired relative to
performance after they received the placebo, but the performance of the
group was not affected by the challenge with the food dye blend.’
[Swanson J.M., Kinsbourne M., Science. 1980 Mar
Synthetic food colourings and 'hyperactivity': a
‘Of 220 children referred for suspected
55 were subjected to a 6 week trial of the Feingold diet. Forty (72.7%)
improved behaviour and 26 (47.3%) remained improved following
of the diet over a period of 3-6 months. The parents of 14 children
that a particular cluster of behaviours was associated with the
of foods containing synthetic colourings. A double-blind crossover
employing a single-subject repeated measures design was conducted,
eight of these children. Subjects were maintained on a diet free from
additives and were challenged daily for 18 weeks with either placebo
lead-in and washout periods) or 50 mg of either tartrazine or
each for 2 separate weeks. Two significant reactors were identified
behavioural pattern featured extreme irritability, restlessness and
disturbance. One of the reactors did not have inattention as a feature.
findings raise the issue of whether the strict criteria for inclusion
studies concerned with 'hyperactivity' based on 'attention deficit
may miss children who indicate behavioural changes associated with the
of food colourings. Moreover, for further studies, the need to
a behavioural rating instrument specifically validated for dye
[Rowe KS. Department of Paediatrics, Royal Children's
Parkville, Victoria, Australia. Aust Paediatr J. 1988 Apr;24(2):143-7]
Synthetic food colouring and behaviour: a dose response
effect in a double-blind, placebo-controlled, repeated-measures study.
‘Sensitivity to food colors and flavors:
[Rowe, K.S. and Rowe K.L. (1994) Journal of Pediatrics
This study demonstrated a functional relation between the ingestion of
synthetic food color (tartrazine) and behavioral change in 24 atopic
children, with marked reactions being observed at all six dosage levels
dye challenge. When they reacted to the (food) dye, the younger
had constant crying, tantrums, irritability, restlessness, severe sleep
and were described as 'out-of-control, easily distracted and excited,
high as a kite.’
Oligo-antigenic diet treatment of children with epilepsy
’We studied the role of oligo-antigenic diets
in 63 children with epilepsy; 45 children had epilepsy with migraine,
behavior, or both, and 18 had epilepsy alone. Of the 45 children who
epilepsy with recurrent headaches, abdominal symptoms, or hyperkinetic
25 ceased to have seizures and 11 had fewer seizures during diet
Headaches, abdominal pains, and hyperkinetic behavior ceased in all
whose seizures ceased, and in some of those whose seizures did not
Foods provoking symptoms were identified by systematic reintroduction
foods, one by one; symptoms recurred with 42 foods, and seizures
with 31; most children reacted to several foods. Of 24 children with
epilepsy, 18 recovered or improved (including 4 of 7 with myoclonic
and all with petit mal), as did 18 of 21 children with partial
In double-blind, placebo-controlled provocation studies, symptoms
in 15 of 16 children, including seizures in eight; none recurred when
was given. Eighteen other children, who had epilepsy alone, were
treated with an oligoantigenic diet; none improved.’
[J Pediatr. 1990 Sep;117(3):509-10.. Egger J, Carter CM,
Soothill JF, Wilson J. Department of Neurology, Hospital for Sick
The Health of Criminals Related to Behaviour, Food,
Allergy and Nutrition: A Controlled Study of 100 Persistent Young
‘This questionnaire-based research addressed
the young offender population in order to estimate the proportion
to have food allergic and other nutritionally related disorders such as
A controlled health and dietary survey was conducted with 100 young
and 100 matched non-offenders. The offender group reported
higher rates of ill health than the non-offender group. It is suggested
the nutritional health of young offenders could be investigated as part
present statutory requirements to consider the physical and mental
of young criminals. There was no real difference between the diets of
two groups. Further research is justified into the association between
health and behaviour problems. From this study, the proportion of the
young offender population with maladaptive behaviours linked to food
food intolerance and nutritional problems is cautiously estimated to be
whereas 18% of the young non-offender population is similarly affected.’
[C. Peter, W. Bennett ; Jonathan Brostoff ; Journal of
Nutritional & Environmental Medicine 7:4:359 – 366]
Can treating food allergies prevent antisocial
‘Poor health and nutritional problems are common among young criminals.
research indicates that the link is more than coincidental, and that
health and diet problems may be one key to preventing behavioral
and even criminality.
Several years ago, C. Peter Bennett
and Jonathan Brostoff surveyed 100 young offenders and 100 matched
and found that ‘the offender group reported significantly higher rates
ill health than the non-offender group.’ For instance, offenders were
more likely than controls to report stomach-aches, lethargy, eye and
problems, poor sleep, abnormal thirst, poor concentration, and poor
and to be hyperactive. Noting that many symptoms exhibited by the
could be linked to food allergies or food intolerance, Bennett et al.
tested the effects of nutritional interventions on young criminals.
research involved nine children, between the ages of 7 and 16, with
of ‘persistent anti-social, disruptive and/or criminal behaviors.’
et al. say their nine subjects had collectively committed 67 crimes,
note that ‘all the subjects regularly displayed irrational aggression
Physicians identified nutrient deficiencies and food allergies
all nine of the subjects, and elevated levels of cadmium - a
heavy metal - in four. The researchers provided treatment for all
including dietary restriction and allergy desensitization therapy.
Videos shot by an independent BBC film crew before the
the researchers say, ‘showed uncontrolled, violent, competitive and
behavior.’ Afterward, in contrast, participants were ‘controlled,
Bennett et al. say that the health and behavior of all nine
improved during treatment. Three children later discontinued the
intervention, and two re-offended. Of the six other subjects, two
‘but with much reduced frequency and violence than before the project.’
all, of nine subjects, five did not re-offend during the two years
The researchers conclude that dietary intervention ‘appears to
within an ethical, efficient, effective, economical and preventive
Color me hyper
Research by Neil Ward links hyperactivity
- a strong risk factor for criminality - to nutritional deficiencies
food intolerance. Ward surveyed the parents of 486 hyperactive children
172 non-hyperactive controls. The parents of the hyperactive children
that more than 60% exhibited increased behavior problems when exposed
synthetic colorings and flavorings, preservatives, cow's milk, and
chemicals. In contrast only 12% of parents of the controls reported a
between food additives or colorings and worsened behavior.
(see related article, Crime Times, 1995, Vol. 1,
No. 3, Page 5).
Ward identified a subgroup of hyperactive children with known
to synthetic food colors, and exposed the children to these chemicals.
23 exposed to the food coloring tartrazine, 18 responded by becoming
16 became aggressive, 4 became violent, and several developed eczema,
poor speech, or poor coordination. In contrast, only one control
showed minor behavioral changes after drinking tartrazine. Two other
‘sunset yellow’ and amaranth, also caused significant behavioral
in hyperactive subjects.
Ward uncovered one possible explanation for the food colorings’
The hyperactive children in the study had statistically lower zinc and
levels than controls - and when hyperactive children known to be
to the colorings tartrazine and ‘sunset yellow’ were exposed to these
their blood serum zinc levels dropped markedly. ‘Several studies,’ Ward
‘have shown that zinc-deficient animals are more prone to stress and
aggressive when compared with normal cases.’ Previous research also has
linked tartrazine to hyperactivity.
Dr. Christie C. Yerby, Doctor of
Naturopathic Medicine writes in her article ‘To Die For’: ‘It is
the amount of toxins that are in some nutritional supplements these
Perhaps it was by the example of the food industry that originally
it as being OK, that other industries feel that they can follow. Now,
some of our nutritional supplements, the sacred resource we have
as being “good for us”, is causing concern. What we eat as food,
as supplement and drug pill coatings or medicinal syrups, or rub on
as cosmetics often contain toxic coal-tar based dyes. According to
resources on the subject, four of these dyes, Red 3, Yellow 5, Yellow
and Blue 2 have been shown to cause cancer, as have other dyes which
not used in food, but are used in drugs or cosmetics. Fortunately, the
of food dyes in the U.S. is one of “decreasing” rather than
Of the 24 food dyes previously allowed in the American food supply, 17
now banned, de-listed, or no longer produced. We are, however, still
for the other seven to be removed from consumer products by the FDA.
then, we continue to consume them. Toxicity of three dyes (Red 3,
5, and Yellow 6) is the subject of a Public Citizen Health Research
petition to the FDA, calling for a ban. The group is now also reviewing
safety studies on the other four dyes (Green 3, Red 40, Blue 1, and
2), because of previous toxic findings. FD and C Blue No. 2 was shown
produce malignant tumors at the site of injection when introduced under
skin of rats. The World Health Organization gives it a toxicology
of B, meaning that data was not sufficient to make it acceptable for
use. FD and C Yellow No. 6 is used in food, alcohol, supplements,
and hair rinses. In 1986, the FDA passed a ruling that it had to be
on the labels because of its ability to cause allergic reactions. Don’t
fooled, though. Check your one-a-day “A to Zs” and you will note that
dyes are listed only on the throw-away box, and not on the inside
itself. Tests conducted on FD and C Red No. 40 were all conducted by
manufacturer, (name withheld). Consequently, many American scientists
that the safety of Red No. 40 is far from established. The National
Institute reported that p-cresidine, a chemical used in preparation of
No. 40, was carcinogenic in animals. In rats, a high dose caused
reproductive effects. Aspirin-sensitive patients have been reported to
life-threatening asthmatic symptoms when ingesting Yellow No. 5. By
it too is supposed to be on the label when added to a product. But,
many products do not reflect these additives if the lists of
are not labeled directly on the bottle itself. Watch for this. Of
interest, these toxic dyes are not only being read from the labels of
foods, candies, and fertilizers, they are coming right off the outside
of a popular multivitamin for kids. Oh, and one more interesting thing,
adds near the bottom: “Keep out of reach of children.”’
New England Journal of Medicine October
5, 2000; 343; 1047-1048:
‘A common blue food dye seems
to have caused the deaths of 2 patients after it was used to color the
food pumped into their stomachs, according to a new report in the New
Journal of Medicine. The patients had been given food with FD&C
dye No. 1, after which their skin and blood turned a bluish-green.
hours later the patients, a 12 month old with Down's Syndrome and a 54
old with kidney failure, were dead. The blue dye, made of coal tar, is
added to the liquid food to help doctors see whether any of the food is
from the stomach. In healthy people, the food and the dye are not
to leave the digestive tract. The three cases involved patients
had digestive track tissues being destroyed by sepsis, a serious
condition. The condition apparently allowed the dye to enter the
causing a deadly drop in blood pressure (hypotension) and an increase
acid levels in the body's fluids and tissues (acidosis). According to
researchers: “During sepsis, gastrointestinal permeability increases
of enterocyte death and loss of barrier function at intercellular gaps.
substances that are otherwise nonabsorbable may be absorbed during
The researchers note that Blue dye #1 was approved by the FDA in
after experiments in healthy animals indicated that the dye was
and not absorbed. Concerning the potential health dangers of the dye,
“Blue dye no. 1, a triphenylmethane dye, is a potent inhibitor
mitochondrial respiration in vitro and reduces oxygen consumption by a
of eight in mitochondrial preparations in vitro. It appears to inhibit
transformation by blocking the adenine nucleotide translocator (as is
case with atractyloside).”
The researchers note that although both patients were
with serious illnesses, their condition was improving before they
the dye. Although researchers say the dye is not dangerous to the vast
of people, they are recommending “judicious use” in patients with
increased gastrointestinal permeability.’
Lost study links food additives to tantrums.
By Robert Uhlig Food Correspondent (Filed: 25/10/2002):
‘Lost study links food additives
to tantrums: Parents were left confused last night after a
study appeared to show that food colourings and additives used in some
popular foods caused temper tantrums and hyperactivity up to a quarter
young children. The study, commissioned three years ago by the former
of Agriculture and completed last year, was discovered by food
in the library of the Food Standards Agency. It appeared to be the
time that a Government-sponsored study had corroborated anecdotal
of a link between food additivies and changes in children’s mood and
The Food Standards Agency said the study was “in line with previous
by other organisations” but had been dismissed by experts on its
and medical panel as “scientifically inconclusive”. Having been
by several peer-reviewed journals, the report by scientists at the
and Allergy Research Centre lacks the science world's stamp of approval.
Nevertheless the Food Commission, which unearthed the study,
parents should take close notice because the study concluded that
changes in children's hyperactive behaviour could be produced by the
of colourings and additives from their diet”.
The food additives were tested on 277 three-year-olds from the Isle of
using scientifically valid double blind tests. However, the research
deemed by the Food Standards Agency not to be scientifically objective
it relied on parents recording significant changes in their children's
The artificial food colourings Tartrazine (E102), Sunset Yellow (E110),
(E122), and Ponceau 4R (E124) and the preservative Sodium Benzoate
were given in a single drink. The test dose of colourings in the trial
well below levels permitted in children's foods and drinks. For the
the test dose was equal to the permitted level. Parents described
such as “interrupting”, “fiddling with objects”, “disturbing others”,
settling down to sleep”, “no concentration” and “temper tantrums”.
Following the study, the Food Commission found more than 200
foods and drinks containing one or more of the additives. The products
well-known fizzy drinks, sweets, canned vegetables, cakes, biscuits,
sauces, crisps and ice lollies.
Annie Seeley, a nutritionist at the Food Commission, said nearly 40 per
of children’s food and drinks contained additives. Kath Dalmeny,
officer at the commission, which publishes the findings in Food
today, said it was “concerned to find it has been rejected by several
journals”. She said: “Any study involving children often relies on
observation. Taking children out of their home environment or having
observed by strangers can itself affect the results.” Dr Hasan Arshad,
of the David Hide Asthma and Allergy Research Centre, which undertook
study, defended its findings. He said it provided the first results
a large-scale trial.’
other relevant literature:
The Shipley Project: treating food
allergy to prevent criminal behaviour in community settings; C. Peter,
Bennett et al; Journal of Nutritional and Environmental Medicine, Vol.
1998, pp. 77-83.
The health of criminals related to behaviour, food, allergy and
a controlled study of 100 persistent young offenders; C. Peter, W.
and Jonathan Brostoff;, Journal of Nutritional and Environmental
Vol. 7, 1997, pp. 359- 366.
Assessment of chemical factors in
relation to child hyperactivity; Neil Ward, Journal of Nutritional and
Medicine, Vol. 7, 1997, pp. 333-342.
The Failsafe Cookbook: reducing food
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Fed Up: understanding how food affects
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Different Kids: growing up with ADD,
Random House, 1994
Fed Up with Asthma: how food affects
asthma and what you can do about it; Random House, 2003
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www.rachel.org, newsletter #712, summary
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