Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Myth: Artificial food colors cause hyperactivity.

Answer: The scientific debate continues.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulates food colors added to food. There are nine artificial food colors that are allowed by FDA. Artificial colors are listed on the ingredient label.

The controversy surrounding artificial food colors and hyperactivity is not a new one. It began in the 1970s when Dr. Benjamin Feingold popularized his theory that artificial food colors increased child hyperactivity. Dr. Feingold’s work was largely refuted in the scientific community due to flaws in the study methodology and the study’s inability to establish a causal link.

According to a review of the research conducted by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), “a causal relationship between exposure to color additives and hyperactivity in children in the general population has not been established.” In addition, the report states that observed behavior changes do not appear to be due to any “inherent neurotoxic properties” of the food colors.

The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) however has petitioned FDA for the ban of artificial colors in food. Many parents have reported improvement in their children’s behavior when they have removed foods with artificial colors from their child’s diet. While this evidence is compelling it has not been scientifically validated in controlled studies.

So what should a concerned parent do? If you have concern about your child’s behavior, then choose whole foods that have been minimally processed. The artificial food colors are mostly found in highly processed foods. Prepare your food at home where you can control what is added.

For more information about food colors, refer to the Food ingredients and colors brochure.

Contributor: James Meyer, Nutrition and Health Education Specialist, meyerje@missouri.edu

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