ADHD Symptoms may Worsen Due to Food Dyes

For some time now, studies have suggested links between <"">artificial food dyes and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)—a typically pediatric neurodevelopmental disorder that can also affect adults. Now, an emerging study has found that children diagnosed with ADHD could have a so-called “unique intolerance” to these potentially dangerous chemicals, said ABC News, citing a just-released government report.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) says that man-made dyes are not linked to hyperactivity in the majority of children and that research has not found the dyes to contain “any inherent neurotoxic properties,” according to a staff memo filed after the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CPSI). In 2008, the CSPI urged the FDA to ban eight dyes, citing studies linking the dyes to behavioral effects mimicking hyperactivity in children. The products were not banned and, since, the CPSI says animal studies have linked the dyes and related chemicals in the dyes, to cancer.

The FDA has been criticized for not taking a look at the effects of artificial food dyes in at least 15-to-20 years. Also, as we’ve previously written, CSPI, called for a ban on artificial food dyes saying that none of the nine food dyes approved for use in the U.S. have been proven safe. In 2007, a study conducted by the UK’s food standards agency—the British agency that most mirrors the FDA—discovered that nine-year-olds who drank beverages made with food dyes were likelier to become hyperactive. Eight dyes, meant to make beverages and foods, such as cakes, pies, cereals, candies, and snack foods more appealing, involve FD&C Blue 1 and 2; FD&C Green 3, Orange B, FD&C Red 3, FD&C Red 40, and FD&C Yellow 5 and 6, said ABC News.

The FDA released its research summary prior to a two-day hearing in which its Food Advisory Committee will look at potential links between food dyes and pediatric hyperactivity; the committee will advise the FDA if protective action is needed, said ABC News. The agency also said that an “expert neurotoxicologist” with the Oak Ridge National Laboratories reviewed two of the key studies cited in CSPI’s petition and 33 other scientific studies the agency felt were relevant, wrote ABC News, citing a September 2010 memo released last week.

The studies include 2007 research that appeared in the journal The Lancet and conducted by University of Southampton researchers in which the effects of a mixture of artificial dyes and preservatives on British children ages 3-to-4 and 8-to-9, were studied, said ABC News. The research also looked at a 2004 meta-analysis from the Journal of Developmental & Behavioral Pediatrics that reviewed prior studies of the artificial food dyes-ADHD link, explained ABC News.

Dr. L. Eugene Arnold, a child psychiatrist who specializes in ADHD and autism, and who is professor emeritus at Ohio State University, is scheduled to testify on behalf of the patient group Children and Adults with Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (CHADD), said ABC News. Although he has not yet drafted his response, he told ABC News “If something is safe, easy, cheap and sensible to do, you don’t need as much evidence to take action. In this case, the action would be to remove artificial food dyes from foods targeted to kids. Dyes are not an essential food group. We have an obesity epidemic; it’s not necessary to make food more attractive. The sole purpose of the dyes is to make food more attractive.”

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has said that ADHD affects 3-to-5 percent of all American children and that children and adults with ADHD could also suffer from inattention and impulsivity, wrote ABC News.

“These colors carry risks,” says Bernard Weiss, PhD, professor of environmental medicine at the University of Rochester, previously. “The question for parents is this: Is it worth taking even minimal risks for benefits that do not exist?” quoted WebMD. Although Weiss was not a part of the Center’s report, he did cite—as far back as 1980—clinical studies that proved food dyes can lead to behavioral problems in children.

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