Food Additives and ADHD

Food Additives and ADHD

Children diagnosed with ADHD and medicated long term with drugs such as Ritalin, need help to regain their natural health and vigor. There have been concerns raised for many years about food additives as causing behavioral disorders in young children, such as ADHD. Although studies have been carried out that do implicate food additives in behavioral disturbances in young children, the extent to which food additives should be restricted as a result of such findings has remained controversial.

The processed food industry today is big business, as witness the increasing numbers of bottled, tinned, vacuum packed and packaged food products on supermarket shelves, all intended to be attractive to consumers and to supply our daily nutritional needs. Processed foods contain various additives to maintain appearance, and extend shelf life. Nitrites have been used to cure delicatessen products, such as sausages and salami for years, despite known carcinogenic effects. We often put on the blinkers when it comes to consuming our favorite foods.

Colors, flavorings and preservatives are often cited as having potential adverse effects on the behavior of children, and there is also a wide range of emulsifiers, sweeteners, anti oxidants and food stabilizers added to processed foods. Since 1986, food additives have been codified, and most are now known by name or by E number, that means the additive is approved by the European Union.

Most food additives are actually derived from natural products that have an anti fungal or anti bacterial function that protects plants from potential disease and decay. Widely used preservative, benzoic acid, is a natural ingredient of cranberries. In many cases, antioxidants are vitamins such as A and D. Manufacturers extract the essence of natural preservatives in order to maintain the shelf life of their products.

The question is whether products such as benzoic acid, when extracted and used as a food preservative, produce toxic effects. If we eat plums, cranberries, cloves or cinnamon we get the beneficial effects of benzoic acid in a natural context, combined with many other plant bio chemicals that the body can use to enhance good health and vitality. There is no doubt that adding products such as benzoic acid preserves the shelf life of food, but at what cost to our health.

Food colors and sodium benzoate have been reported as causing hyperactivity in children, and a 2007 study conducted by the University of Southampton demonstrated hyperactive effects on young children directly caused by a range of food additives. Researchers were of the opinion that their findings could have a “substantial impact on the regulation of food additives in Britain”. Disappointingly, the Food Standards Agency (FSA) responded with a recommendation to those parents who believed their children to be hyperactive, to simply cut out all foods with the E numbers cited in the Southampton study.

The FSA has been criticized for failing to insist on a deadline for the offending additives to be removed from food products, and the situation is not helped by the researchers later conceding that many other factors such as genetics, developmental and emotional factors play a part in hyperactivity, not only food additives.

As such, food additives remain in our processed food products, and children today increasingly consume food that is pre-packaged or sold as a take-away. ADHD continues to rise in school aged children, and so does the level of ADHD prescription medication.

It has long been said that there are none so blind as those who will not see, and children fall between two stools when neither parents nor manufacturers take the necessary steps to ensure that children get good food.

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