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Food dyes and ADHD

Which food dye is bad for a child with ADHD?

From: Elaine.

Greenerview Sun, 10/01/2023 - 10:04

Research has found a possible link between certain artificial colors used in food and problems with hyperactivity in children. According to research funded by the Food Standards Agency, the 6 food colors most closely linked to hyperactivity in children are: E102 (tartrazine), E104 (quinoline yellow), E110 (sunset yellow FCF), E122 (carmoisine), E124 (ponceau 4R), and E129 (allura red). These colors are used in several foods, including soft drinks, sweets, cakes, and ice cream .

However, it's important to note that no conclusive evidence has been found to show that food coloring causes ADHD. Some studies have suggested an association between the two, but most likely, ADHD is caused by the combination of changes in brain structure, environmental factors, and heredity.

The Feingold diet has a larger list. There is a list proposed in the Feingold diet. This list includes some preservatives together with the food dyes.

Food dyes in the Feingold diet list

Amaranth E123 
Annato E160 ( b) 
Black PN E151 
Brilliant Blue FCF E133 
Brown FK E154 
Brown HT E155 
Caramel E150 
Carmoisine E122 
Cochineal E120 
Erythrosine E127 
Indigo Carmine E132 
Ponceau 4R E124 
Quinoline yellow E104 
Red 2G E128 
Sunset yellow E110 
Tartrazine E102 
Yellow 2G E107


Benzoic acid E210 
Butylated hydroxyanisole E320 
Butylated hydroxytoluene E321 
Sodium benzoote E211 
Sodium nirate E251 
Sodium nitrite E250 
Sulphur dioxide E220

Food coloring linked to HA

Sunset yellow E110 
Carmoisine E122 
Tartrazine E102 
Ponceau 4R E124 
Quinoline yellow E104 
Allura red AC E129

There are other additives potentially dangerous for asthmatic people or those sensitive to aspirin that could be added to this list.

Some studies seemed to contradict Feingold's theory and conclude that a diet free of food dyes did not make any change. However, more work needs to be done in this area as there are other studies that have found a relationship between food dyes and hyperactivity. The most recent to come to mind was published in 2207 study in the UK and found six colorings common in sweets and drinks do have an impact in hyperactivity levels.

What is the Feingold diet?

Ben Feingold was an American allergist. He observed that many children with hyperactivity symptoms were also sensitive to aspirin. He postulated a diet free o salicylates -chemical composition similar to aspirin- should help those children. Salicylates are naturally present in some fruits and vegetables.

Dr. Feingold also observed that some additives, even if they were not similar to aspirin, affected hyperactive children in the same way. His approach was trying to help hyperactive children get better without drugs and devised a diet that excluded all artificial flavors, colors and preservatives, and food with naturally ocurring salicylates, although food with salicylates is only out of the menu for the first few weeks, the introduced an item at a time.

His works are controversial. Supporters of his methods claim some of the trials done to prove his theories false tested the method only partially.

Read and form your opinion.

Managing ADD with diet

If your child is overactive and struggles to concentrate, it might help to cut down on the six colors (mentioned in the first paragarph) in their diet. But speak to their GP first. If your child is hyperactive or has attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), there's some evidence to suggest that avoiding these 6 food colors may help. But it's important to be aware that hyperactivity can have many different causes, including genetics, and food colors are probably only a small part of the problem ¹. Removing food colors from your child's diet will not necessarily lead to an improvement in their behavior.

If you think your child's diet may be affecting their behavior, it might help to keep a diary of what they eat and how their behavior changes so you can see any patterns. If you notice a possible link between food colors and their behavior, you may want to see if avoiding these colors helps. But do not make changes to your child's diet without getting advice from their GP first.