Thursday, September 06, 2007

Additives 'can make any child hyperactive'

Yeah, this is old news to some of us :D

Additives 'can make any child hyperactive'


PARENTS got a fresh warning yesterday that food additives could trigger hyperactivity in children.

Many children, and not just those suffering from extreme hyperactive conditions, can become more impulsive, inattentive and hyperactive from the cocktail of artificial extras found in drinks, sweets and processed foods, according to research published in the Lancet.

In the biggest study of its kind, scientists at Southampton University recorded the responses of 153 three-year-olds and 144 eight to nine-year-olds to various drinks and found that artificial food colour and additives were having "deleterious effects".

The youngsters drank a mix that reflected a UK child's average daily additive intake.

Professor Jim Stevenson, a psychologist who led the research in the study commissioned by the Food Standards Agency (FSA), said: "We now have clear evidence that mixtures of certain food colours and benzoate preservative can adversely influence the behaviour of children.

"There is previous evidence that some children with behavioural disorders could benefit from the removal of certain food colours from their diet.

"We have now shown that for a large group of children in the general population, consumption of certain mixtures of artificial food colours and benzoate preservative can influence their hyperactive behaviour. However, parents should not think that simply taking these additives out of food will prevent all hyperactive disorders.

"We know that many other influences are at work, but this at least is one a child can avoid."

The children, chosen as a snapshot of the general population, were all put on additive-free diets. None suffered from a hyperactivity disorder.

Each day for six weeks, they were given drinks that either contained one of two mixtures of food colours and benzoate preservative or just fruit juice. All the drinks looked and tasted the same.

The study builds upon tests conducted on the Isle of Wight in 2002, which were inconclusive about the possible links between additives and hyperactivity. The first mixture was similar to that used in the 2002 study. The second mixture contained the current average daily consumption of food additives by three-year-old and eight to nine-year-old children in the UK.

The children's different reactions were rated by teachers and trained observers in the classroom and by their parents at home. The older children also took computerised attention tests.

Professor Ieuan Hughes, the chairman of the Committee on Toxicity, made up of independent scientists, described the £750,000 study as "robust" and said it "added weight" to a possible link between certain artificial food colours and preservatives having a bad effect on children's behaviour.

The FSA is now sending the findings to the European Food Safety Authority, which is currently reviewing the safety of all European Union permitted food colours.

It could increase pressure on manufacturers to stop using certain food colourings, but there are no plans to call for a ban.

Parents who are confused over what might be bad for their children are left with a simple message: read the label.

They will have to do the groundwork to find out what is in their children's meals as some foods such as school dinners or those served at children's parties do not come with labels.

Julian Hunt, of the Food and Drink Federation, said: "As a responsible industry, we shall be studying the detail of the research and companies will clearly take account of these findings as part of their ongoing review of product formulations."

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Last updated: 05-Sep-07 00:54 BST

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