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Food Additives & ADHD

Theories of what causes ADHD seem to grow with each day. There are a variety of biological and environmental theories that tend to get most of the press and truthfully have the most credibility. However, nutrition research has made a link between some food additives and ADHD. Specifically, some additives found in popular soft drinks may play a role.

One of the additives, sodium benzoate, has been linked to cell damage in a previous study, and to an increased for cancer. Sodium benzoate is found in Coca-Cola, Pepsi Max and Diet Pepsi, and in many fruit drinks.

Other additives assessed in the study include a number of colorings – sunset yellow (E110), found in fruity drinks; carmoisine (E122), a red coloring often added to jams; ponceau 4R (E124), a red food coloring; tartrazine (E102), found in lollipops and carbonated drinks; quinoline yellow (E104), a food coloring; and allura red AC (E129), and orange-red food dye.

The researchers cautioned against belief that additives alone could cause ADHD, but noted that this finding was important. I would also encourage come caution against viewing that as a large factor, but hopefully it can be another reason for parents to limit unhealthy foods from their child’s diet.

Food Additives & ADHD

Will Meek, PhD

Will Meek PhD is a psychologist in Vancouver, Washington, and writes weekly at his blog: Vancouver Counseling.

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APA Reference
Meek, W. (2007). Food Additives & ADHD. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 21, 2018, from


Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 30 Sep 2007
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 30 Sep 2007
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