Food Dyes May Play Factor in Learning


Those blue drinks, red popsicles and multi-colored cereals could be triggering temper tantrums, learning difficulties, sleep disorders and a host of physical complaints such as asthma, headaches, hives and ear infections.

This year, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration took the first steps in determining if these petroleum-based additives are playing a part in the increase in ADHD and other behavior and learning problems. The agency acknowledged that some children are sensitive to these chemicals, and they have changed their Web site to reflect this.

The American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Academy of Family Physicians now list food additives as potential triggers for conditions like ADHD.

This all comes as good news for the Feingold Association of the US, the nonprofit support group that shows parents how to address a wide range of problems by continuing to enjoy their favorite foods, but in versions that are free of the worst of the additives. More information is available at

The research showing that food dyes are harmful to all children prompted the European Union to require warning labels on most foods that contain the dyes. As a result, multinational food companies are now coloring the food in Europe with natural ingredients like grape juice, strawberries and turmeric. In the U.S., however, these same companies continue to use the cheaper petroleum-based dyes.

Richard Carlton, MD, a New York psychiatrist who specializes in helping children with behavior and learning problems, agrees that it makes sense to replace the chemically-treated foods with their natural counterparts before resorting to stimulant drugs, with all their potential side effects. He also urges strongly that the pre-natal vitamins women take should be free of artificial colors (which can damage fetal development).

Many years ago, Ben Feingold, MD, discovered that some of the additives found in food can trigger disturbed behavior in sensitive children, and that as more and more of these additives are being used, the number of affected children increases. During the past 50 years the amount of dye consumed in the United States has increased by 500 percent.

Now, after numerous supportive medical studies and 35 years of success, the Feingold Association is seeing a growing awareness that eating chemicals made from petroleum is harmful for everyone.


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