A science presenter, writer, speaker & former TV host; author of The Skeptic's Handbook (over 200,000 copies distributed & available in 15 languages).

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Food Science

“…Tired of dealing with grumpy irritable kids?
Wondering if being a parent was meant to be THIS unrewarding?”

I never thought I’d be one of those mums–you know, the food nazi kind with ‘sensitive kids’. But holy-canoli, the difference is amazing.

Additives change behaviour

People say “it’s just kids-being-kids”, but when schools remove additives from food between 30 to 70% of parents report that they notice an improvement. Their kids sleep better, behave better, have longer concentration spans, less asthma, less excsma, less bed wetting, are less irritable, and more helpful. So yes, it might be ‘normal’ for kids today to be rude, loud, and unable to sit still, but that doesn’t mean it’s healthy, or that you have to put up with it. That’s 30-70% of normal school children! No wonder people say this behaviour is ‘normal’. These additives are everywhere, not just lollipops, but in icecream, soup, cold meat, cottage cheese, dips, margarine, buns, chips, crackers, buns, bread crumbs! We tried strict discipline, it didn’t work. Getting rid of additives is easier and far more rewarding.

“No one tested additives to see if eight year olds became grumpy”

Scientifically the evidence is inconclusive. But anecdotally, many mums are convinced. You can wait a decade for ‘proof’, or you can just try it yourself and you’ll know in a few weeks. We saw a difference after 3 days.

Maybe additives don’t affect your kids. If a three week experiment made your family 30% more friendly and happy wouldn’t you kick yourself if you waited years to find out?

The Watch List

From FedUp! and from the Royal Albert Childrens Hospital)

Colors 102
quinoline yellow,
yellow 2G, sunset yellow,
ponceau red,
red 2G,
allura red,
brilliant blue,
green S,
brilliant black,
chocolate brown
Download a purse size list you can print
Preservatives 200-203
nitrates, nitrites

Synthetic Antioxidants 310-312
TBHQ, BHA, BHT (306-309 are OK)
Flavour Enhancers 621 MSG
MSG (aka ‘yeast extract’)
disodium inosinate
disodium guanylate,

*160b or Annatto is natural, but one of the worst. Watch out for it in vanilla icecream, salad dressings, and anything coloured white or cream. Just because it’s natural and not a ‘colour’ doesn’t mean it’s ok.

Fed Up with Food Additives link

Sue Dengate has led the fight against additives in Australia for years. She’s author of several books. Her site has hundreds of stories from parents about lives transformed by getting rid of additives. It also goes into detail of how some natural foods cause behaviour and allergy problems. This can be daunting for any cook. But it’s worth knowing about. Sue has helped people with full blown autism, ADHD, major asthma, and sometimes (god forbid), all three at once. For kids who are ‘normal’ but energetic (i.e. difficult), we’ve had lots of success eliminating the artificial additives and being aware of problem foods. We’ve trimmed back the natural foods we may have been overdoing.

Additive Alert link

Julie Eady has a popular website and book focused on removing additives and shopping for additive-free food. She’s based in Perth and visits schools. She’s helped a lot of people, and is running a campaign to get rid of additives. Go Julie!

The Southampton Study link

ScienceDaily (Sep. 10, 2007) A study by researchers at the University of Southampton has shown evidence of increased levels of hyperactivity in young children consuming mixtures of some artificial food colours and the preservative sodium benzoate.

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2 comments to Food Science

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    [...] and behaviour ; Food additives and behaviour ; Food and behaviour ; Food affected behavior ; Food science AKPC_IDS += [...]

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  • #

    You have an interesting site and information. I was pleased to see that you note that the actual science is not settled at this point. As far as the behaviour of children from eating additives, there does not appear to be a downside to cutting preservatives from their diet and seeing if behaviour improves. I had a relative who at 5 would run wild when eating candy, sweetened cereal, etc. By age 10, this behaviour disappeared. Did she outgrow the problem? Was is not really the problem? Or did she learn that running wild after getting candy meant no more candy, so she reigned in her own behaviour? I don’t know that it matters–the behaviour changed in a positive direction. Also, I liked your defining allergies versus intolerance. Not often do I see that. And the inclusion of “natural” additives.

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