Is it necessary to feed kids foods that stain their lips, tongues and hands? Do you ever think about what it took to make the funky blue filling in their (or your) breakfast pastries or how fruit juices get their deep red, orange, yellow and blue colors? Your kids don’t care, but do you?
Artificial colors added to foods have been linked to hyperactivity in children. Does this really shock anyone? The increase in children diagnosed and drugged for ADD and ADHD could actually be linked to what they eat! Genius! There is also a link with learning disabilities! Wow, you don’t say! How many parents are struggling with a child with a learning disability? As a former teacher, I was dealing with classes where 1/3 of the students were on IEP (Individualized Education Plans) for learning disabilities! The problem is only getting worse!
A carefully designed study was released in The Lancelot, a leading British medical journal, shows that a variety of common food dyes and the common preservative sodium benzoate causes some children to become more hyperactive and distractible than usual. Two groups were analyzed, 3 year olds and 8 and 9 year olds. For six weeks, several hundred children were given a drink with varying doses of coloring and sodium benzoate and some were given a drink that contained none. Children in BOTH age groups were significantly more hyperactive (restlessness, lack of concentration, fidgeting and talking or interrupting too much) when consuming the drinks with the “stuff” in it. Three-year-olds had a bigger response than the 8 and 9 year olds. The amount of the food coloring in the drinks was equivalent to only 1 or 2 servings of candy a day! That’s all it took! How many of our children are consuming way more than that?
Some more food for thought: A study in The Journal of Pediatrics founded 150 out of 200 children (75%) improved on an open trial of a diet free of synthetic food colors and deteriorated upon introduction of foods containing synthetic colorings.
Do we really NEED artificial colorings? The CSPI reports that many big companies sell different versions of foods in the United Kingdom with natural food colorings, while in the United States, they contain artificial coloring. For example, M&M's, Skittles, Starburst Chews, and the strawberry sauce that McDonald's uses on its sundaes. The strawberry sauce is made with Red 40 in the United States, but in the United Kingdom, they use real strawberries.
If you are all concerned about the affect on YOU and your children, here are some things you can do!
· Feed your family more whole foods and avoid or limit the amount of processed food.
· Read food labels and checking for artificial food coloring agents on the ingredients list, including Blue 1, Blue 2, Green 3, Red 40, Red 3, Yellow 5, and Yellow 6.
· Look for foods that use natural food coloring, which is indicated by ingredients such as annatto extract, beta-carotene, beet powder, caramel color, fruit juice, paprika, saffron, turmeric, and vegetable juice.
· Avoid flavored milk (strawberry milk doesn't have any strawberries in it)
· Avoid or limit foods with a lot of different bright colors on them, for example something like Kellogg's Pop-Tarts Frosted Double Berry toaster pastries. These breakfast treats look fun, but if you check the food label, they do have almost all of the artificial food colors in them, including Red 40, Blue 2, Yellow 6, and Blue 1.
Bottom line, there are many things we can do to address some of the issues our children are facing. Education is power and sometimes slight changes make all the difference in the world. I have focused on children in this article, but you may be linking some of your behavior with some of your colorful food choices.