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Controversies Surrounding the Use of Artificially Colored Food and Hyperactivity in Children


Hyperactivity disorder in children is the common neurobehavioral problem, associated with multiple aetiologies. 3–10% of children develop attention-deficit/ hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) (Schab and Trinh, pp. 423-34). This disorder is associated with low academic achievements and increased risk of drug abuse later in their lives. It is believed by some researchers that food colors and food additives can cause ADHD in children. However, this is a controversial issue and research is done to evaluate the relation of food colors and hyperactivity disorder in children.


            ADHD may cause restlessness, distractibility, and difficulty in focusing; in addition, it is associated with learning disorders and anxiety. It may be caused by genetic or environmental factors. Smoking, pregnancy complications, and micronutrient deficiencies are the factors that increase risk (McCann, Barrett and Cooper, pp. 1560-7).

Artificial colors are added in drinks, candies and many other food items, which are consumed by children. Relation of artificial food colors with hyperactivity is documented in many studies. A study done in 2004 (Schab and Trinh, pp. 423-34) showed that artificial food colors cause hyperactive behavior in children. Tartrazine is a neurotoxic agent added as a food color in diets. Other toxic food colors are FD&C Green 3, Blue 2, Red 3, and Yellow 6 (Weiss, pp. 1-5). These agents are associated with ADHD in children. Exact cause of this relation is unknown; however, it may be caused by dopamine depletion in brain. A placebo-controlled trial done in 2007 (McCann, Barrett and Cooper, pp. 1560-7) showed that food colors may cause hyperactivity in young children. The recognition of neurobehavioral toxicity in children due to food colors has increased awareness in parents about these toxins.



It is a controversial issue that food colors cause ADHD or hyperactivity in children; however, research has proved that excessive use of these food colors may cause hyperactivity disorder in children. 







Works Cited

McCann, Donna, Angelina Barrett, and Alison Cooper. “Food additives and hyperactive behaviour in 3-year-old and 8/9-year-old children in the community: a randomised, double-blinded, placebo-controlled trial.”  Lancet. 370. 9598(2007):1560-7.

Schab, David and Nhi-Ha Trinh. “Do artificial food colors promote hyperactivity in children with hyperactive syndromes? A meta-analysis of double-blind placebo-controlled trials.” J Dev Behav Pediatr. 25. 6(2004):423-34.

Weiss, Bernard. “Synthetic food colors and neurobehavioral hazards: the view from environmental health research.” Environ Health Perspect. 120.1(2012): 1–5.

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