Friday, April 1, 2011

Don't you love being right?

My friend (and a Spark Development supporter), Donna, sent me an email with this title a couple of days ago.  She was referring to an article that appeared in Newsday entitled "The dark side of brightly colored food" (at A34, March 29, 2011) (it appears on the web as: "Opinion: Danger of artificial food dyes" (

Written by a Professor of Psychiatry at Columbia University (David W. Schab) and The Executive Director of the Center for Science in the Public Interest (Michael F. Jacobson), the article makes some excellent, and disturbing, points about (i) artificial dyes and their PROVEN connection to attention and behavior issues; and (ii) the FDA's previous reluctance to admit any such link even though that link had been addressed in Europe some SEVEN years ago!

Specifically, the article notes that "According to a growing number of scientific studies, [artificial dyes] are causing behavioral problems and disrupting children's attention. . . .  In a significant turn from the agency's previous denials that dyes have any influence on children's behavior, an FDA staff report released last week concluded that synthetic food colorings do affect some children."  Emphasis added.

The sad part is, that nutritionists, like the one who helped my son, Robert, recover from ADHD and PDD, knew about this DECADES ago!  And if that wasn't enough, studies about artificial dyes and their effects on behavior have been coming out of Europe for the past several years.

In fact, the article notes, that "In 2004, one of us, David Schab, co-wrote an analysis of the best studies of food dyes' effects on behavior. That analysis found striking evidence that hyperactive children who consumed dyes became significantly more hyperactive than children who got a placebo.

At the same time, the British government funded two studies, each involving almost 300 children. Their results were even more startling: Artificial food dyes, in combination with a common preservative, could make even children with no known behavioral problems hyperactive and inattentive. Health officials in the United Kingdom urged manufacturers to stop using the six dyes -- including Red 40, Yellow 5 and Yellow 6 -- involved in those studies. Next, the European Parliament required that foods containing those chemicals bear a label warning that the dyes 'may have an adverse effect on activity and attention in children.'"

No such research or warnings ever came from the good, old FDA.

Anyone get the feeling the FDA isn't really on our side?

Another interesting little tidbit in this article, and one that should really get you mad, is the fact that "[a]rtificial colorings are meant to manipulate consumers' perceptions. Manufacturers tout research showing that redness enhances the impression of sweetness, and that in tests with beverages and sherbets, color did more to influence consumers' perception of the flavor than the flavor itself."  Emphasis added.

Anyone feeling a little controlled by marketers?

Our diets really do impact the way we feel, the way we act, our attention, our behavior, and our ability to learn.  This simple FACT cannot be stressed enough.  Indeed, it's why nutrition counseling is a part of our program.

Remember, dietary issues usually fall into one of these categories:

--  Food Allergies or Sensitivities.  While some people may experience adverse physical reactions to foods such as itching, hives or swelling, other people may have adverse behavioral reactions to eating certain foods.  Thus, while there may be no physical manifestation of an issue, certain foods can, like the artificial dyes noted above, cause behavior problems including, but not limited to, hyperactivity and inattentiveness.  Other common culprits include artificial sweeteners, dairy products, and even wheat and corn.

--  Nutritional Deficiencies.  Given our love of processed and fast foods, is it any wonder that many children are deficient in nutrients essential to optimal development?  Probably at the top of the list are essential fatty acids.  Indeed, research has shown that the vast majority of children diagnosed with ADHD are deficient in essential fatty acids.

--  Injured/Impaired Gut.  I've written about this before.  Exposure to environmental insults, including the overuse of antibiotics, can impair a child's ability to properly digest food.  Thus, even if he or she is eating properly, his or her body simply cannot process the food correctly.  Or, in more severe cases, the child's gut may allow improperly digested substances to pass into their systems, or may even be producing toxins that affect behavior and development.

So, if your child is having these types of attention and behavior issues, take a good, hard look at what they are eating.  If you suspect an issue, I urge you to consult with a knowledgeable nutritionist immediately.

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