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Study Finds Possible Link Between Food Additives and Hyperactivity in Kids

By Michelle Duffy     Sep 6, 2007 in Health
Across the world, parents have always feared the worst when it comes to food. The link between behavioural problems and certain additives in processed food has sat in the back of their minds for generations, yet now the link proves to be true after all
As parents, we have worried ourselves silly over the link between food additives and that unspoken condition - hyperactivity. When years ago, much of a child's temper tantrums were just put down to age and "kids being kids" it seems that all these year later, the nagging question mark in our heads appears to be true after all.
According to a new study by the UK Food Standards Agency (FSA), research has found a definite link between the food children eat and their general behaviour. In a study focusing on the habits of 300 random children, the research found that the majority of the children's behaviour changed as soon as they had drunk a drink containing certain additives. The moods found in the children were irrationality and total loss of concentration.
The study has proved through these findings that children who are particularly vulnerable should stay completely away from such drinks and foods which may make them hyperactive.
However, in a complete turnaround from this, the experts linked to the study say that it shouldn't be the diet that needs to change to keep hyperactive children under control. Alarmingly, parents of children who are most at risk from additive reactions are being told that drugs need to be implemented instead of a overhaul of dietary habits.
The chief behind the study at the FSA, Dr Andrew Wadge said that some children might benefit from foods which contain colourings, particularly if his/her's parents feels they are at a greater risk from ADHD or hyperactivity.
Dr Wadge was also quick to mention that certain foods are not the be all and end all of such conditions. What also needs to be taken into account of a child's behaviour are factors such as environment, genes and parent interaction. Again, parents are also finding that a child born prematurely could also be as risk from behavioral problems.
As a general guide, these are the additives which parents need to be aware of when buying foods for their children:
Sunset yellow (E110) - Colouring found in squashes
Carmoisine (E122) - Red colouring in jellies
Tartrazine (E102) - New colouring in lollies, fizzy drinks
Ponceau 4R (E124) - Red colouring
Sodium benzoate (E211) - Preservative
Quinoline yellow (E110) - Food colouring
Allura red AC (E129) - Orange / red food dye
As Dr Wadge pointed out in his statement, it is generally the colourings which are used frequently in foods which need to be avoided in the most extreme cases.
Yet this information for many linked authorities have said that it's not enough from the FSA. Certain official bodies have called for the Agency to do more to help parents pick out the right foods for their hyperactive children. In particular, it has been the campaigners behind food safety who have been quick to point the finger at the FSA. One is the Soil Association. Spokeswoman, Emma Hockbridge explains that firmer policies to be put in place on the usage of food colourings by certain food companies. Along side, The Food Commission have echoed these thoughts, asking for production companies to remove colourings altogether. A spokesman said for the Commission,
"These artificial colourings may brighten up processed foods and drinks but it appears they have the potential to play havoc with some children's behaviour."
Flaws have also been detected in the FSA study by the Food and Drink Federation. They have found that although these tests do prove that there is a significant link between food additives and such conditions in childhood as hyperactivity, they do now, however, show the public how these certain additives are sued in normal circumstances. Julia Hunt from the Federation explains,
"Manufacturers are very aware of consumer sensitivities about the use of additives in food and drink products. It is important to reassure consumers that the Southampton study does not suggest there is a safety issue with the use of these additives."
This is not the first time a study has focused heavily on the links between food additives and the irrational behaviour of certain children, and it certainly won't be the last. In the past, tests have been used on different age groups of children to see if age makes any difference to how a child reacts.
Toddlers in this previous FSA study were up against another group of older children around 8 and 9 years old. Each group was given drinks, one drink, full of additives and another with nothing, or very little in it.
The children's behaviour after the drinks were taken was carefully monitored. Some results showed that there was indeed a change in behaviour for the older group of children, but because each child is different, the reaction was different for each individual whether they had taken the additive drink or not.
Thus proving that simply taking the additives will not decrease a child's hyperactive behaviour, other factors truly need to be considered and that simply blaming it on a poor diet, won't do, as a better diet won't cure a hyperactive child either.
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