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Junk Food Wreaking Havoc on Kids

Food Additives Increase Hyperactivity in Kids

Story Date: 4/6/2004

NEW YORK - Artificial food colorings and benzoate preservatives increase hyperactive behavior in preschool children, according to a new report.

Despite claims about the detrimental behavioral effects of artificial food colorings and preservatives, the authors explain in the June Archives of Disease in Childhood, there have been no broad studies of the prevalence of hyperactivity related to intolerance to food additives.

Dr. John O. Warner from Southampton General Hospital, UK, and colleagues studied the impact of artificial food colorings and benzoate preservative on the behavior of 277 preschool children.

At the start, 36 children had hyperactivity and allergies, 75 were only hyperactive, 79 had only allergies, and 87 did not have either condition.

Parents' ratings of their children's hyperactivity fell after withdrawal of food additives from the children's diets, the team reports, and there was an increase in hyperactivity when food additives were re-introduced.

Parental hyperactivity ratings increased significantly when children were exposed to food additives regardless of their hyperactivity status or the presence of allergies at the start of the study.

"Additives do have an effect on overactive behavior independent of baseline allergic and behavioral status," Warner told Reuters Health. "The effect is significant but its magnitude requires further elaboration before making any sweeping recommendations about legislation on permitted food additives."

New research "will be based in schools and pre-schools in Southampton to involve 4- and 9-year-olds," Warner said. "By basing objective observation in schools, we hope to have a more sensitive way of substantiating the parents' observations. It is also important to know whether the effect is seen in older children."

He added, "We do not yet know which artificial additives are important in relation to behavior or whether the list extends to other natural equivalents."

SOURCE: Archives of Disease in Childhood, June 2004.

Story by Will Boggs, MD

Story Date: 4/6/2004