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Link Between ADHD and Food Additives Again Questioned

ADHD & AdditivesA new editorial in the BMJ (British Medical Journal) asks researchers and professionals to look more closely at the link between attention deficit disorder (ADHD) and food additives.

Andrew Kemp, a pediatric professor at the University of Sydney, called for removal of food additives from the diet to be part of standard initial treatment for kids with attention deficit disorder (ADHD).

Kemp cited a 2007 research trial showing an increase in hyperactivity among children without ADHD who were given a number of experimental drink concoctions high in food colorings and the preservative sodium benzoate and then had their behavior monitored.

However, other professionals have questioned the generalizability of that study’s findings, noting that the study’s results have not been replicated. Experts have also noted that there have not been any reliable trends found in the research literature. The 2007 study has not been replicated with children with ADHD.

The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) reviewed the evidence linking preservatives and foor colorings with hyperactive behaviors from 22 studies between 1975 and 1994 and two additional meta-analyses.

Sixteen of the studies reported positive effects in at least some of the children. However, the EFSA pointed out that hyperactivity has a wide range of social and biological causes, and exclusively focusing on food additives may detract from the provision of adequate treatment for children with the disorder.

But to discount the accumulating evidence of dietary factors may also negative impact a child’s treatment for ADHD, notes Kemp.

Increasing numbers of children are diagnosed with ADHD and taking prescription medications to treat it. In the U.S., ADHD affects over 4.4 million children, of which more than 56% take medications to help treat the condition.

Removing colors and preservatives is a relatively harmless intervention, so a properly supervised and evaluated trial period of eliminating them should be considered as part of the standard treatment, Kemp concludes.

Source: BMJ (British Medical Journal)

Link Between ADHD and Food Additives Again Questioned

Psych Central News Editor

APA Reference
News Editor, P. (2018). Link Between ADHD and Food Additives Again Questioned. Psych Central. Retrieved on February 18, 2019, from
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Last updated: 8 Aug 2018
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Aug 2018
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