Children, ADHD and Synthetic Food Dyes

ADHD_FoodDyesJacquie Eubanks RN BSN



As the healthy trend toward more natural food ingredients continues, consumers are shying away from foods that contain synthetic food colorings, especially those found in processed food products marketed to children. According to the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), a non-profit watchdog group, “Mounting scientific evidence and scientific consensus demonstrates that certain children are being harmed by synthetic food dyes and some may experience episodes of inattention, hyperactivity, restlessness or other behavioral effects after consuming foods containing synthetic dyes.” As food dyes serve no nutritional purpose and are used solely to make processed foods more colorful and therefore more appealing, consumer advocates are calling for a ban on the use of synthetic dyes in both foods and beverages that may harm susceptible children.

The truth is that the diagnosis of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) has been increasing dramatically among American children. According to the Centers for Disease Control, as of November 2013, 11% of American children aged 4 – 17 were diagnosed with attention deficit disorder, an alarming increase of 42% in just 8 years. According to a new report based on eight detailed analyses and released in January 2016, CSPI found evidence of a growing consensus among researchers and healthcare providers who treat behavioral problems that avoiding food dyes does benefit certain children. The FDA maintains artificial food dyes are safe and has declined to ban these food colorings or stipulate a package warning label. However, in response to consumer demand some manufacturers are eliminating synthetic dyes in favor of natural ingredients, such as turmeric, beets and paprika.

The amount of food colorings found in our food is concerning, as many children are consuming dyes in amounts that exceed the levels demonstrated in some trials to trigger behavioral problems. In Europe, many of the food colorings used in American products have been banned, forcing manufacturers to produce similar but healthier products to sell in the EU. For example, a certain chewy candy sold in the U.S. contains Red #40, Yellow #5, Yellow #6 and Blue #1. In the EU that same candy contains no artificial colors, and is naturally colored with antioxidant anthocyanins, carotenes, chlorophylls and chlorophyllins. And while a certain brand of orange soda is dyed with Red #40 and Yellow #6 in the U.S., in the U.K. it’s colored with pumpkin and carrot extract. Would you rather give your children a fast food strawberry sundae colored with red dye #40 or one that actually contains strawberries? We should not have to go to Europe to get the real thing.

American children are being exposed to an alarming rate of chemicals that are associated with a significant increase in ADHD symptoms, a rate not seen in countries that either ban or have warning labels regarding synthetic food colors. Unless you are eating whole foods, you’re not likely to avoid the nine FDA-permitted food colorings, including Green #3, Orange B, Red #40, Yellow #5 and Blue #1. By some estimates, each year food manufacturers add 15 million pounds of artificial food dyes to processed foods. We might not think twice about giving our kids that electric blue sports beverage or that bright cherry red yogurt. However, consuming brilliantly colored foods that are not naturally found in nature may be more harmful than we are led to believe. Perhaps we would pay more attention if these items carried warning labels, but it’s worth checking the nutrition label when deciding what foods to purchase. When you see artificial colors listed, you may just decide to put the product back on the shelf and look for another with more natural ingredients.

We all need a colorful diet, preferably one filled with a variety of vibrantly colorful fruits and veggies. To reduce or eliminate synthetic dyes, stick to whole fresh foods and avoid processed food products. Some parents of children who are sensitive to food dyes have found that eliminating foods containing these additives noticeably reduced negative behavior patterns in their children.

Professional Supplement Center offers these and other high quality dye free vitamins for children:

Vitamin Code KidsVitamin Code Kids by Garden of Life – This whole food great tasting multi contains 24 organically grown fruits and veggies that provide essential antioxidants, vitamins, minerals and nutrient cofactors. Non-GMO Project Verified. No artificial flavors, sweeteners or additives. Gluten free, vegetarian formulation.


Ultra Preventive Kids Grape (201035)Ultra Preventive Kids by Douglas Laboratories – This complete, great tasting chewable provides multivitamins, minerals and a full spectrum of bioavailable trace elements that support the structure and function of growing bodies. Formulated for children aged 4 and older, this hypoallergenic formula contains natural orange or grape flavor and no artificial colors, flavors or preservatives. Gluten and soy free.


Just For Kids Multi - GrapeJust For Kids Multi by Nutritional Frontiers – Naturally flavored, bear-shaped chewables provide a compete blend of multivitamins, minerals and the nutrients necessary for proper growth and function. Natural orange or grape flavor. Gluten, soy and dairy free, no artificial colors, flavors or preservatives.


Kid's One DailyKids One Daily by MegaFood – These easy to swallow minitabs provide comprehensive nourishment with FoodState™ Nutrients derived from fresh and local foods. One daily tablet provides 24 essential vitamins and minerals along with organic bioflavonoids and antioxidants for children aged 5 and older. Gluten, soy and lactose free, Non-GMO vegetarian formula. No artificial colors, flavors or preservatives.

Seeing Red: Report Finds FDA Fails to Protect Children in Light of New Evidence on Food Dyes.
Does Artificial Food Coloring Contribute to ADHD in Children?
Living in Color: The Potential Dangers of Artificial Dyes.
Food Dyes: A Rainbow of Risks.
Why French Kids Don’t Have ADHD.
ADHD by the numbers: Facts, Statistics, and You.
FDA Probes Link Between Food Dyes, Kids’ Behavior.
All About Food Color Additives.

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