Does Diet Effect ADHD?

How to Determine if Additives are Causing ADHD.

The Role of Food Coloring in Improving Symptoms of Hyperactive Kids by ADDitude Magazine

Last week we discussed that studies have shown a link between artificial food dyes and allergic reactions, hyperactivity, and even cancer.

We posted the link to the “Smart Guide To Food Dyes: Buying foods that can help learning” by David Wallinga, M.D., Director of the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy’s Food and Health Program with things you can do to reduce the exposure to food dyes.

Then we reviewed The Feingold Cookbook for Hyperactive Children which helps eliminate synthetic additives including artificial colors.

Today we reference an article from a great magazine ADDitiude Living Well with Attention Deficit. The advice is from Laura Stevens from the December/January 2008 issue of ADDitude and can now be found on the ADDitude website. The author, Laura Stevens, is a food and nutrition researcher at Purdue University and author of Twelve Effective Ways to Help Your ADD/ADHD Child: Drug-Free Alternatives for Attention-Deficit Disorders.

Below is an edited summary of how to determine if chemical food dyes effect a child.

How do you know if food additives are compromising a child’s focus? Conduct a quick test at home.

1. For one week, avoid foods and drinks that list on their labels U.S. certified color Red #40, Blue #2, Yellow #5 (Tartrazine), Yellow #6 (Sunset Yellow), as well as sodium benzoate.

2. Then ask: Does the child seem less fidgety?

3. After seven days, reintroduce food additives into his diet by squeezing a few drops of artificial food coloring — you know, the McCormick brand in the little plastic bottles — into a glass of water, and have the child drink it.

4. Observe his behavior for two or three hours. If you don’t see a change, have him drink a second glass. Does he become more hyperactive?

5. If so, wean the child off foods that are artificially dyed or flavored, or that contain sodium benzoate.

Click here to see the entire article.

Tomorrow: How to Wean Kids Off Foods with Artificial Dyes and Flavors

Do you think diet effects a child you care for with ADHD?


  1. Do you think this may be the cause of asthma and eczema in the child I nanny for? How could I show the parents this without insulting them?

  2. Absolutely diet can affect asthma and eczema!But, it's not hard to serve children whole foods without chemicals but if you are working in a home that's been eating Lucky Charms, McDonalds, orange soda, etc it's going to be harder to change the way the child has been eating. I think it's too hard for a nanny to try to do alone. The parents have to agree and be willing to make changes. So, to anonymous above you can certainly show the parents these resources. But no point in being the only one to make dietary changes. If the parents are willing to try then go ahead. The parents will appreciate the knowledge and willing to try. But don't take it personally if they don't agree with you or aren't willing to make the dietary changes. The kids are ulitimately the parent's responsiblity.

  3. Not to burst your bubble but all food additives have been thoroughly tested and shown to be safe. I understand parents will try anything to help their kids but no proof diet cures autism or ADHD. If someone is allergic to an ingredient that's another story. But for food dyes and such do you really think that a major food company would add something that could hurt you? Kids moods go up and down all the time. I’m sure a few tenths of a gram of dye won’t make much difference. Don’t worry, the food is safe. Career Nanny Melinda Boston Suburbs

  4. I know one nanny was anonymously accused of copying and pasting info into the comments on the blog (not the articles themselves). But I found some great info some will be partially copied because I am not an expert. Saying th FDA wouldn't approve of something that would be potentially harmful is wrong. The FDA isn't perfect. I'm sure if we googled the mistakes made by the FDA there would be many.1. Vioxx which caused heart attack and strokes. Pulled off the market not after the FDA mandated it, but after the lawsuits piled up.2. DES which was used to prevent miscarriages actually caused the children born to develop cancer and sterility3. Direct Black 38; Direct Blue 6: Just 2 Food dyes of many that have been banned after already being used. (these are carcinogens)and Red # 2 dye; an interesting case. It is a known carcinogen but is still allowed on the skin of Florida Oranges because it does not penetrate the skin… ok that sounds safe.4. What about BPA found in plastic bottles now recommended that parents not serve foods to kids in BPA plastics? FDA still hasn't banned it while Canada has.5. They changed the dye in Red M&M's. 6. Sunscreens, not FDA approved since 1970's.Don't assume the FDA can and will stop everything potentially harmful from reaching the market. There is very rigorous research that needs to go into these testing and its not always done well enough or long enough to find all possible side effects from drugs, dyes, cosmetics, additives.

  5. There is no doubt in my mind that some children are chemically sensitive. If you care for an autistic or hyperactive kids why not try diet? Makes sense. Great resources once again. I am sure this will help many.

  6. I care for a child diagnosed ADHD and special needs and it's so obvious that no child should be allowed sugar, caffeine, junk foods, yet they are fed it anyway. It's frustrating that he eats candy and soda daily but it's the parents' choice, not mine.

  7. I think the girl I take care of has lactose intolerance. I think this method might work with her too. Eliminate lactose from diet then slowly introduce it back into the diet again. I don't know why I didn't think of it before. Thanks, good advice.

  8. I have to agree with the idea that additives in foods can very much affect children. YOU ARE WHAT YOU EAT! Nothing more important for EVERY child to eat healthy, whole, nutritious foods. I pride myself on following recipes in cookbooks rather than buying boxed or packaged foods when making children meals. I may be weird but I enjoy making a shopping list each Monday and planning out the week's meals. You can never insult a parent by just showing them articles. You aren't accusing them of anything by trying to help their child.

  9. Whatever happened to consequences for inappropriate behavior? Did you see one person talk about a girl with ADHD? I feel young boys are very active and some have trouble controlling their energy. But as they grow and mature, are punished when they misbehave, praised when behave properly, given plenty of exercise and structured and unstructured play you will find less hyper boys. Just my opinion.Nanny Mary near Chicago

  10. Anonymous One, I have worked for parents that probably wouldn't have cared if I showed them articles tracing back to food allergies and eczema. This person was in the medical profession too. He also ignored the preschools requests for bringing healthier snacks per their policy on this (this was after I was no longer nanny.)Maybe what you could do is try your best on your watch to have the kids eat healthy, and say you came across some articles while you were reading something… and have print outs of them. If they don't want to hear you, let it go, until they bring up the conversations about rashes again. Or do you go with to dr. appts. if so maybe plant a bug in the dr.'s ear.

  11. diet might not be able to cure, but it can help.

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