FDA to Examine Possible Link Between Certain Foods and ADHD

Could those brightly-colored foods your kids love, like Jell-o and Lucky Charms, be contributing to behavioral problems?

Recent studies linking food coloring to hyperactivity in kids have some experts calling on the FDA to ban foods containing them — or at least require a warning label. The FDA’s food advisory committee is meeting Wednesday and Thursday to hear testimony from industry and consumer advocates on whether artificial food dyes cause hyperactivity in children. The committee will decide whether to recommend warning labels on foods with the coloring.

“The task before this Food Advisory Committee is to consider available relevant data on the possible association between consumption of synthetic color additives in food and hyperactivity in children, and to advise FDA as to what action, if any, is warranted to ensure consumer safety,” the FDA wrote as conclusion in a background report prepared for the hearings.

Results from a recent study, which was reported last month in the Lancet found that with a diet free of certain artificial additives, many children experienced a reduction in hyperactivity symptoms.

"Food is the main cause of ADHD," the study’s lead author, Dr. Lidy Pelsser of the ADHD Research Center in the Netherlands, told NPR. "After the diet, they were just normal children with normal behavior. They were no longer more easily distracted, they were no more forgetful, there were no more temper-tantrums."

Over 5 million children ages four to 17 have been diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in the United States, and close to 3 million of those children take medication for their symptoms, according to the Centers for Disease Control. The issue of a possible link between diet and behavior problems with children has been studied and debated since the 1970s, according to the FDA's background report.