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Revisiting food dyes and hyperactivity

Posted Oct 01 2008 12:00am

As exploring readers will know, I long ago doubted that food components (especially sugar and dyes and flavorings) were causes of hyperactive behavior in children. There are good reasons for my doubt. Meta-analyses of studies that tested additive-free diets revealed essentially no benefits of the diets. Other studies showed that suspected factors—especially sugar—were not culpable in hyperactive behavior. Indeed, other analyses have provided plausible explanations for why we are misled by apparent causal connections.

But, the idea persists and is even getting renewed coverage in the popular media. Melinda Fulmer provided an article to the Los Angeles (CA, US) Times describing recent examinations of the effects of additives on child behavior. Here’s her lead:

Almost every parent has a story about their [sic] kid bouncing off the walls after downing a package of jelly beans or eating a neon blue-frosted cupcake at school. Most blame the sugar.

But some new research suggests that the rainbow of artificial colors may have a bigger effect on children’s behavior. And in other parts of the world, some organizations are starting to take action on these ingredients.

I guess it’s time to revisit this topic. Do I have time to do so? No, but if I presented a mistaken perspective earlier, I should correct it.

More importantly, if Ms. Fulmer and the LA Times are promulgating untrustworthy information, they need to correct it.

Link to Ms. Fulmer’s story. Link to learn more about Ms. Fulmer’s reporting. Link to my previous (AKA “ancient history”) observations about the food additives research.

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