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Food additives

Food Additives Found to Cause Hyperactivity in Children

Tuesday, January 29, 2008 by: David Gutierrez, staff writer
Tags: food additives, sodium benzoate, artificial colors


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(NewsTarget) Two different cocktails of common food colorings and preservatives increased hyperactive behavior in children, according to a study conducted by researchers at the University of Southampton and published in the journal The Lancet.

In the study, which was commissioned by the United Kingdom's Food Safety Agency (FSA), researchers fed children fruit drinks spiked with either a mix of sunset yellow coloring (E110), tartrazine (E102), carmoisine (E122), ponceau 4R (E124) and sodium benzoate (E211) or a mix of sunset yellow, quinoline yellow (E104), allura red (E129) and sodium benzoate. Two different groups of children were tested, one composed of children aged three and the other composed of children aged eight or nine. In all, more than 300 children were tested.

The children were monitored closely after drinking the cocktails. Among older children, hyperactivity significantly increased in both groups. Among younger children, the researchers said, hyperactivity increased more significantly among those who had the cocktail containing the more common combination of flavors and preservatives.

"These findings show that adverse effects are not just seen in children with extreme hyperactivity (such as ADHD) but can also be seen in the general population and across the range of severities of hyperactivity," the researchers wrote.

Because the children were given a combination of additives, the researchers were unable to determine what contributions each of the individual ingredients might be making to hyperactivity. Nonetheless, many colleagues hailed the study as significant, and the FSA forwarded it to the European Union's Food Safety Authority for review.

"This is a well designed and potentially very important study," said Dr. Sue Baic, a dietician at the University of Bristol. "It supports what dieticians have known for a long time -- that feeding children on diets largely consisting of heavily processed foods, which may also be high in fat, salt or sugar, is not optimal for health."

"There is no doubt," added consumer health advocate Mike Adams, "that artificial coloring chemicals directly cause behavioral problems in children. I believe they cause this effect by interfering with normal nervous system function. Such harmful chemicals should, in my opinion, be banned from all foods and beverages."

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