Research suggests that artificial food dyes, sugar, and dietary sensitivities may exacerbate symptoms of ADHD in some children. Learn how to design a good ADHD diet — one that feeds focus, control, and happiness — for your whole family. In other words, diet is especially important for children with ADHD, for whom the wrong chemicals and additives like red dye 40 can spell system failure. Finding the right ADHD diet can make all the difference. As Susan served breakfast for her 6-year-old son with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder ADHD, little did she know the tasty blueberry muffin, bowl of Fruit Loops, and glass of Sunny D Citrus Punch would worsen his ADHD symptoms all day long, making him more inattentive and fidgety. Two studies 5 6 from the United Kingdom are good examples. In , one studied healthy preschoolers after giving them either a placebo or 20 milligrams of artificial dye mix plus sodium benzoate. They found that, when the children received the actual dye and sodium benzoate, they had a significant increase in hyperactivity. In the second, in , a research team lead by UK researcher Donna McCann studied a group of 3-year-olds and 8- or 9-year-olds.
The Feingold diet is an elimination diet initially devised by Benjamin Feingold following research in the s that appeared to link food additives with hyperactivity ; by eliminating these additives and various foods the diet was supposed to alleviate the condition. Popular in its day, the diet has since been referred to as an “outmoded treatment”; there is no good evidence that it is effective,   and it is difficult for people to follow. The diet was originally based on the elimination of salicylate, artificial food coloring, and artificial flavors ;  later on in the s, the preservatives BHA, BHT,  and somewhat later TBHQ  were eliminated. Besides foods with the eliminated additives, aspirin- or additive-containing drugs and toiletries were to be avoided. Even today, parents are advised to limit their purchases of mouthwash, toothpaste, cough drops, perfume, and various other nonfood products to those published in the Feingold Association’s annual Foodlist and Shopping Guide. Although the diet had a certain popular appeal, a meta-analysis found research on it to be of poor quality, and that overall there was no good evidence that it was effective in fulfilling its claims. In common with other elimination diets, the Feingold diet can be expensive and boring, and so difficult for people to maintain. In general, as of [update] there is no evidence to support broad claims that food coloring causes food intolerance and ADHD -like behavior in children. For decades, the Feingold Program required a significant change in family lifestyle because families were limited to a narrow selection of foods.
The very best way to sidestep artificial ingredients is to eat whole foods as much as possible. And in that case, reading labels is invaluable. Food companies use more than 3, food additives in their packaged products, including preservatives, flavorings and colors—some being worse than others. Artificial sweeteners are synthetic sugar substitutes, but may be derived from naturally occurring substances, including herbs or sugar itself. Trans fat, or trans-fatty acids, is a type of unsaturated fat that made from vegetable fats usually under the name partially hydrogenated vegetable oil for use in things like margarine, snack foods crackers, chips, etc. Trans fat is very pro-inflammatory, which is a known culprit in most modern-day chronic diseases, including diabetes, heart disease and cancer. Nutrition labeling rules allow for a product to say it has zero grams of trans fat if the amount per serving is. Focus on eating healthy fats instead, including avocados, avocado oil, nuts, nut butters, seeds, olives and olive oil. Artificial food colors are chemical dyes used to color food and drinks. They cause hyperactivity and behavioral problems in some children and reduction of IQ, and some have been shown to cause cancer in laboratory animals. When food is processed, it loses its natural flavor, and when it sits on a store shelf for weeks, its natural chemicals begin to deteriorate, reducing its shelf life.